Most of the productions I’ll review over the next few days will end this weekend MAY 7–See them before they close! Beginning with:
BECKETT IN BRIEF: A stunning troika of Beckett plays brought to luminous life by an equally stunning trinity of actors led by the incandescent Will Lyman who appears in each. Lyman’s extraordinary elegance, timing, capacious imagination and humanity takes us to the places hardest to go.
The first short play ROUGH FOR RADIO II originally for radio, is here presented in silhouette from behind a screen. Lyman is the “Animator,” irritable and demanding, Ashley Risteen is his Stenographer across the desk, dominant and submissive all at once, and Ken Baltin (unseen but heard under the desk) as the tormented “Fox” who is whipped by a mute named Dick into giving up some information, the specifics of which are as oblique as this set of circumstances and relationships. But the significance of this dynamic is felt. The creative process in action? Any of us trying to give voice to anything of import? Perhaps. A glimpse inside Beckett’s psyche? Undoubtedly. What holds us fast is the focus of the actors, the unsettling universality of the premise, and the mesmerizing pull of the externally strange yet interiorly familiar struggle to make something meaningful happen– which might set us free.
The second play THE OLD TUNE translated and adapted by Beckett from a radio play by Robert Pinget, finds two old Irishmen, Gorman and Cream (Lyman and Baltin), meeting again after many years. They sit curbside as traffic and life whiz by, while they struggle to remember what they’re driving at. The two soft shoe their way through the past, wrangling with memory lapses, waning sexual potency, loneliness, and irrelevancy. As they lurch toward the void trying to get a light for their cigarettes from a passing stranger, they’re sure of one thing: “…all this speed…has the whole place ruinated.” This lament was so familiar I wanted to laugh and cry. Mortality looms in the ebb and flow of their daft, dark patter.The bowlered Lyman and porkpied Baltin are equal to their hats and masterful here. Absurd and poignant, this play broke my heart.
KRAPP’S LAST TAPE is the final straw. Krapp (Lyman) “unspools” (a word he visibly savors) his past by listening to recordings of his younger selves, each self commenting on previous younger selves, in an effort to make another tape (his last? or perhaps his most recent). His growing disillusion at his youthful mistakes coalesce around a singular romantic encounter that he goes back to on one tape, now that he is 69 years old. It’s heart-rending. Lyman brings the brunt of full-on human regret and the futility of finding the right words to record as he faces his shrinking future and lamentable past. James Seymour directs in a black box– perfect, on an elevated stage that feels vacuum-sealed against the black hole beyond. You could have heard a pin drop.
BECKETT IN BRIEF presented by Commonwealth Shakespeare Company at Babson College’s Sorenson Center for the Arts through Sunday MAY 7.