MAY 1, 2012 – THE ABREACT THEATRE’S PRODUCTION OF “ENDGAME” WAS A TOUR DE FORCE. SyrPer gives a raving “thumbs-up” to the troupe responsible for this very entertaining and provocative absurdist drama by Samuel Beckett.
PART ONE OF REVIEW
We have been waiting very anxiously, since last April really, for the logical follow-up to the Abreact’s flawless rendition of Waiting for Godot. While people might snigger at a group of Wayne State University students attempting a drama/comedy as nuanced as Endgame, crow cooked in an humble pie might be an appropriate reward for all their cynicism. This production was just resplendent.
The Abreact Theatre is located a few clicks down from the Federal Courthouse in downtown Detroit – 1301 West Lafayette, to be exact. It’s nestled inside a respectable looking brick apartment building with a canopy reminiscent of Greenwich Village – no doorman. Once you get inside, you find a large, dark room with a stage and a small collection of garage-sale furniture layed out on tiers accomodating about 40 people comfortably. Our seats were probably relics from a reading room in some old Detroit hotel; reeking of moss and rain, they had been left in a warehouse until some resolute impresario found them and bargained for their relocation to the theatre. You can also bring your own liquor and enjoy it in your seat as you watch the play. Very civilized. Or, if you like, for a small donation, you can go to the canteen and fill up on beer and wine. The entire affair is technically gratis, but conscientious guests will leave a donation to the threatre as a show of support and appreciation.
David Schoen as “Hamm” and Charles Reynolds as “Clov”, deliver the right tone and mood in this depressing but funny play about the oblivion into which all mankind is headed.
This play from 1958 is well studied and frequently produced. One of the advantages of doing Beckett is the proletatarian nature of his scenarios. Only a pair of windows, two trash cans, a wheelchair and some knickknacks populate the stage with four actors. Endgame is not an expensive production; it relies on crisp badinage, tart quips and sometimes, sadly, loud cries of desperation muttered sotto voce, the quintessential Beckett warning you of the mindless, absurd condition draping your existence – informing your life with the evanescent sense of purpose, vanishing in a room looking on to a receding sea.
The other two actors are not given many lines. Dax Anderson and Sarah Galloway play Hamm’s parents- Nagg and Nell. They are made up quite well with Nagg having a slight advantage in the age department. Ms. Galloway looks allright as the senescent old hag but often reveals her youth by shifting the angle of her gaze. But that’s fine, really, because the audience is convinced she’s a long-in-the-tooth biddy with such little time left on earth. Nagg and Nell live in two separate garbage cans with covers that are removed occasionally to allow a head to rise up and deliver the dialogue. But it’s a warning about the end of life: Nagg asks Nell if someone had changed her sawdust. She says, she now has sand, instead. The suggestion that the end of life is a squat inside a trash bin over kitty litter is horrifying – yet, I must admit, funny. The scene is as contemptuous of existence as, when in Godot, Estragon asks what the little boy’s master, Godot, does: the boy answers: “nothing”. God does nothing!
In Endgame, God is hardly even suggested. It’s as though the author took care of all that deity business in another play and didn’t want to be accused of repetition. In Godot, luckless, feckless people are wistfully longing to get out of their rut. A fake god named Pozzo comes along with his indentured servant (just like Clov) and demonstrates the chimera that is god, his powerlessness and man-made fakeries. In Endgame, they’re just waiting to make it to the next step – the garbage cans, and, then – death or the descent into oblivion. God has been dealt with already – he doesn’t exist.
This is a very well acted play with performers who genuinely love the material, even though it’s somewhat
enervating emotionally. (End of Part One – Have to make it for celebratory cocktails)