Note: this article was also published on Neon Tommy.
Endgame, written by Samuel Beckett; produced by A Noise Within: seen October 27, 2013
Absurdist theater is what you make of it. As a result, Samuel Beckett’s Endgame is not an easy play to describe or to review. The one-act play, considered by many to be Beckett’s greatest work, is definitely one to mull over meaning—or even if there is supposed to be meaning. As A Noise Within’s website states, the play “mixes beauty, vitality, and wry humor in this devastating distillation of the human condition.”
The production at A Noise Within is about the silences just as much as the dialogue. The show opens with a long pause, and then the character of Clov (played by Jeremy Rabb) enters the 3/4 thrust stage, shuffling to the two bleak windows in the post-apocalyptic-looking set. When Hamm (played by director Geoff Elliott) is revealed, the play is started, and — as Clov says, “Something is taking its course.”
Karyn D. Lawrence’s stark lighting design adds to the sense of unreality, as does the slate blue-grey colors of Jeanine A. Ringer’s scenic design. “Beyond is the other hell,” Hamm says, referencing the other side of the back wall, and the tech does a good job of sending the impression that hell is just a short distance away.
Both Rabb and Elliott do a great job of balancing the absurdist nature of Beckett’s dialogue with the fact that it is being presented in a real place on a real stage, going overboard when needed in their acting but still bringing the play back to the forefront of the audience’s mind. “Endgame” is constantly aware of itself as a play, the actors talking about what they are doing and where they are in the story. This is handled with precision and poise by the cast, which is rounded out by Mitchell Edmonds as Nagg and Jill Hill as Nell.
Is this a play about the circle of life and coming of age, or is it a tale of the world after the end when all we have is a blind man and his companion? Or is it just the mad ramblings of a playwright wanting to troll audiences? There can be arguments for any of these interpretations. In the end, isn’t that what theater of the absurd is all about? “The creatures, everything has to be explained to them,” says Hamm. But this production doesn’t want to be explained: it wants you to think.
Endgame is playing through November 23 in repertory with Pericles, Prince of Tyre and The Guardsman at A Noise Within (3352 E Foothill Blvd., Pasadena). Tickets are $34. For more information, visit A Noise Within’s website.