Beckett 5 Review - A Journey into the Absurd

Although author Samuel Beckett died in 1989 at the ripe old age of 83, his legacy lives on. Born in Ireland and settling in Paris later in life, Beckett wrote in English and French, both drama and fiction. He received the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1969. Beckett revolutionized theatre, moving from the naturalist movement to the absurd, sometimes obscure and constantly metaphysical. He was comfortable with the experimental and the profound, and his works often defy simple description. So get ready for a ride into the fantastical when the Odyssey Theatre presents five of Beckett’s short plays – really short plays, some lasting only a handful of minutes.

In ACT WITHOUT WORDS - starring Alan Abelew, Beth Hogan, and Norbert Weisser - there really are no words. Two hobos (or maybe not really hobos) live side by side, even sharing their one set of clothing – yet they never meet. Perhaps analogous to many relationships in today’s society? Or perhaps just poking fun at the blindness of some towards others? I’ll never tell, and obviously Beckett wouldn’t either.

Alan Abelew in ACT WITHOUT WORDS II - Photo by Ron Sossi

In COME AND GO – starring Diana Cignoni, Sheelagh Cullen, and Beth Hogan – secrets are passed among three very proper ladies as they sit on a park bench in spring. But each secret is about the absent third and certainly titillates these staid damsels. A metaphor for gossip – or perhaps more.

Beth Hogan, Diana Cignoni, and Sheelagh Cullen in COME AND GO - Photo by Enci Box

In CATASTROPHE – starring Abelew, Beth Hogan, and Norbert Weisser – a prisoner is demeaned by his keepers. Perhaps he is a political prisoner awaiting a deadly fate – but who knows? What we can see clearly is that he is robbed of his personhood and turned into an object to be used. For what ends?

Alan Abelew and Norbert Weisser in CATASTROPHE - Photo by Enci Box

In FOOTFALLS – starring Diana Cignoni and Sheelagh Cullen – a grown daughter paces outside her dying mother’s room. Back and forth, like a metronome, she walks as she awaits her mother’s end. Why not go in and face her mother? Her mother weakens, and she continues to pace.

Diana Cignoni in FOOTFALLS - Photo by Enci Box

In KRAPP’S LAST TAPE – starring Norbert Weisser – Krapp listens to tapes he made of his life years ago. Events are happy, but only to a point. Regrets surface, and even a shot or two of Irish whiskey won’t dim the longing. For what? That’s left up to the audience to decide.

Norbert Weisser in KRAPP'S LAST TAPE - Photo by Ron Sossi

The stage is bare, and only lighting changes each scene. The production team does an excellent job of creating the spare quality of Beckett’s work. After all, everything of any note is inside the head and not in the ephemeral surroundings. Director Ron Sossi helms the five pieces with skill and attention to detail. Special kudos to the splendid cast members, who use body language and facial expressions to project an internal life not open to words. In particular, Weisser’s expressions and motions bring the elderly Krapp to life as he considers his past. Krapp doesn’t say much at all, but the audience grows in understanding in the few minutes of their interchange. For Beckett aficionados, BECKETT 5 will ring with truth. For those unaccustomed to Beckett’s approach to theater, the production may leave them confused. Regardless of audience reaction to BECKETT 5, this collection remains highly theatrical and evocative.

BECKETT 5 runs through March 5, 2017, with performances at 8 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays and at 2 p.m. on Sundays. There are two special performances scheduled at 8 p.m. on Wednesday, February 22, and on Thursday, February 16. The Odyssey Theatre is located at 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90025. Tickets range from $25 to $34 with $10 tickets on February 3 and 16 and on March 3. For information and reservations, call 310-477-2055 or go online.  

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