Sunday, October 27, 2013


Any relationship forged from need is, by definition, a needy relationship.  A relationship formed from desire is desired, desirable and, to me, a superior situation.  As a semi/pseudo intellectual (or would it be pseudo/semi?) I cannot begin to analyze Samuel Beckett’s ENDGAME currently in rep at Pasadena’s A Noise Within.  Well, I could, but it would mostly be a re-hash of having experienced productions of WAITING FOR GODOT and other of Beckett’s theatrical pieces.  The desolate world depicted outside scenic designer Jeanine Ringer’s sad gray set we can only guess at from Clov’s (Jeremy Rabb) reports.  He shuffles and shuffles and shuffles with his ladder to one window and then the other, reporting on the emptiness in the outside world.
Jill Hill and Geoff Elliott Photo credit Craig Schwartz

Hamm (Geoff Elliott who also directs and should reconsider directing himself) cannot stand.  He is master.  Clov, who cannot sit, is not.  Who has the power? Why do they stay? Is there any Hope?  The nihilistic world of Beckett sometimes anointed with the term Theatre of the Absurd may be in a class and a category all by itself.  Influenced by his friend, James Joyce, Beckett forged a new avenue to theatre.  The often told story of the failure of the initial production of Godot with Bert Lahr and Tom Ewell shows that audiences were unprepared to be challenged with free form despair.  ENDGAME does have structure with self referential asides and the fascination of waiting, hoping for something.  It keeps us in our seats.  Are we ever prepared to do the work that Beckett asks of us?

I sometimes overhear what someone in the audience says after the play. 
“What did you think?” 
“It was hideous!”

On one level I must agree.  To paint this netherworld where Hamm’s parents Nell and Nagg (Jill Hill and Mitchell Edmonds) linger in what the Brits call dustbins,  in this production they reside each in one half of a 55 gallon oil barrel,  Nagg and Nell appear and disappear, their futile existence echoing the desolation Beckett paints sometimes with broad strokes and sometimes with minutia… which  is a long sentence that begs the question: What is it all about?  

Elliott’s self direction could use a more critical: external eye and ear.   Not that there is much that one can do with the repetitive business and rambling speeches that Hamm must find meaning in… or does he?  Do we?  Beckett’s message to the world is not a happy one.  Of course,  not all theatre needs to send the audience humming a happy tune out the door.  Biff Rose once said, “Man does not live by bread alone, you’ve got to have a little toast.”  The nourishment of ENDGAME is in there somewhere and to ferret it out is a challenge to both the actors and the audience.  Technically, this production reflects what Beckett himself dictated in specific lines and stage directions with the exception of flopping Right for Left unless the playwright intended a literal view from the audience’s point of view.  As I see the author’s stage directions in my mind’s eye, had the play been staged as Beckett had dictated, it would have been even more uncomfortable. 

ENDGAME by Samuel Beckett
Sponsored by Terry and Jeanie Kay
A Noise Within
3352 East Foothill Boulevard
Pasadena, CA  91107
Plays in repertory through November 23, 2013
Tickets and Information
626 356 3100 ex 1

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