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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Evening with Beckett beautiful but baffling

    It takes a special kind of person to enjoy a Samuel Beckett play. After seeing three in one evening, I’m still figuring out if I’m that kind of person.

    The Rogue Theatre, Tucson’s bastion of highbrow entertainment, chose three Beckett one-acts for its penultimate show of the season. The plays, “”Act Without Words,”” “”Not I”” and “”Krapp’s Last Tape,””  create an illuminating, if bizarre, evening.

    The plays are not for the faint of heart or those new to experimental theater. The first, “”Act Without Words,”” is a half-hour pantomime about the futility of life. Patty Gallagher plays a clown trapped on a desert island and tormented by an unseen force, indicated by a carnival whoosh-ing sound. The noise morphs into another character, as it, he or whatever, plays increasingly vicious jokes on the clown.

    Gallagher is physically impeccable with the timing of a well-trained mime combined with bulging blue eyes in a face so expressive each twitch signals numerous emotional nuances. Still, the piece is a bit tedious, albeit deliberately. Even Gallagher’s luminous stage presence cannot fully absorb an audience used to constant stimulation.

    The next piece, “”Not I,”” is even weirder. It is the only one with two players, though calling both “”players”” is a stretch. The Auditor, played again by Gallagher, stands with her back to the audience in a heavy hooded robe and occasionally points.Cynthia Meier plays the Mouth. She is also robed, and a spotlight illuminates only her red-lipsticked mouth. She talks incessantly in a monologue that flows forth as a fractured prose poem, repeating, circling back on itself, building and ebbing into a mesmerizing rhythm.

    Once you get past the creepiness of “”Not I,”” the piece is beautiful. It makes sense, though on a frequency far below the literal. The words feel like walking somewhere unfamiliar in the dark; you’re often left with the impression that you’ve been there before, but can never quite get your bearings. Meier’s voice is rich and resonant, imbuing the words with as much importance as their meaning. If you listen closely enough, a loose plot emerges through the chaos. I even understood the title, which filled me with an inordinate amount of pride. Perhaps it is possible to “”get,”” and even to enjoy, Beckett.

    After a much-needed intermission, “”Krapp’s Last Tape”” commences. This last piece most closely resembles the traditional idea of a play. Joseph McGrath plays Krapp, an old man listening to recordings of his younger self on reel-to-reel tapes. McGrath’s Krapp shuffles, snuffles, grunts and grumbles, and eats copious bananas in a performance that borrows more from Charlie Chaplin than existentialism. The humor and concrete plot are welcome departures from the weirdness of the first two pieces, and McGrath’s performance is warm and endearing. There is an ample serving of Beckett — 10 or more second pauses, incomplete, baffling speeches — but “”Krapp’s Last Tape”” is still lovely.

    After an hour and 40 minutes of Beckett, I’m disoriented and wild-eyed. Luckily, The Rogue Theatre hosts discussions after performances, so the audience can digest what it has just seen. Director David Morden asks us what themes we saw between the three pieces. People volunteered death, the madness just before death, desperation and futility. I contributed isolation, and was proud when he nods approvingly. We muddle through our impressions of the three plays, and it feels good not to have been the only one lost and fumbling through the evening.

    As the discussion drew to a close, one audience member says, “”I feel very hopeful with Beckett.””

    And I think, I think, I do, too.

    If you go:

    Beckett One-Acts

    The Rogue Theatre

    300 E. University Blvd.

    Feb. 27 – March 14

    Thursday – Saturday, 7:30 p.m.

    Sunday, 2 p.m.

    Musical Preshow begins 15 minutes before curtain

    Discussion with the cast and director follows all performances

    Tickets are $24

    Pay-What-You-Will Thursday night

    Half-price Student Rush 15 minutes before curtain

    Call 551-2053 or visit www.theroguetheatre.org for more information

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