Category: Archive

A defiant Beckettian figure: interesting but not compelling

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

AND THEN YOU GO ON: AN ANTHOLOGY OF THE WORKS OF SAMUEL BECKETT, adapted and performed by Bob Jaffe. At HERE Arts Center, 145 Avenue of the Americas, NYC. Through May 19.

The relentless, almost tidal pull the writing of Samuel Beckett exerts on actors is evident once again in a 75-minute performance rather eccentrically titled ” . . . and then you go on: An Anthology of the works of Samuel Beckett” and on view at the street-level mainstage at HERE Arts Center through May 19.

Adapted and performed by the suitably Beckettian-looking Bob Jaffe, hollow-eyed, gaunt, long-faced and long-fingered, the program is an arrangement of material culled from such familiar sources as “Waiting for Godot,” “Malone Dies,” “Molloy,” “Embers” and “Endgame,” as well of less well-known items like “Cascando,” “First Love,” “Watt,” “The End,” “The Unnamable,” “Company” and a brief sampling of “Texts for Nothing,” a collection with which the mime Bill Irwin scored a resounding success off-Broadway last season.

Unavoidably, the names that seem to rise automatically when much of this material is catalogued are those of the late Jack MacGowran and of the most celebrated contemporary performer of much of these selections, Barry McGovern, who has performed his own Beckett restructurings on two occasions at Lincoln Center, to considerable acclaim.

MacGowran, who died in New York three decades ago, during the run of a Lincoln Center revival of Sean O’Casey’s “The Plough and the Stars,” in which he played the carpenter, Fluther Goode, still rules in memory as the undoubted king of the Beckett monologue.

McGovern, who has played Beckett plays in Dublin at both the Abbey and Gate theaters, was part of the Gate’s complete performance cycle of the Dublin-born master’s complete works for the stage.

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To those unfamiliar with the specific works from which each solo performance has been constructed, the programs may seem much the same, whether restricted to material from the three Beckett novels that form a trilogy, “Malone Dies,” “Molloy,” and “The Unnamable,” or drawn from a broader sampling of the author’s massive output.

As directed by Peter Wallace, Jaffe’s “. . . and then you go on: An Anthology of the works of Samuel Beckett” is simplicity itself, with Jeremy Woodward’s scenic design comprised of a black, drum-like platform on which the actor stands and sometimes sits as he performs, and a slightly puzzling collection of split logs, evenly cut and shaped into a rectangular block by a pair of stout-looking metal bindings. The result, which any owner of an apartment with a wood-burning fireplace would envy, serves as a second sitting place for the actor, and, at times, a little stage for a tiny doll that he manipulates in illustration of the text.

Dressed by costumer Marilyn Salvatore in an unpressed three-piece outfit that would be monochromatic, were it not for the fact that the trousers and the jacket don’t quite match, Jaffe stands in battered, scuffed black shoes with the cuffs of his pants scrunched on the floors behind his heels.

In other words, with his defeated expression and his slightly protuberant eyeballs, Jaffe comes across as emphatically and even defiantly Beckettian.

If devotion were all, Jaffe’s show would rank with the best solo investigations of Beckett’s work. At 50, the actor has an interesting connection with the writing of the Master of Foxrock, since he served at one point as stage manager for some of MacGowran’s performances.

Jaffe’s shortcomings are mainly vocal, since he lacks the rhythms of the Irish cadences by which Beckett seems best delivered.

His voice, alas, is somewhat monotonous, settling all too frequently into patterns that have a way of distancing the hearer from the material.

As is, Bob Jaffe’s show is appealing but not devastating, interesting but not compelling. Even with its limitations, however, it should be of value to anyone serious about Samuel Beckett.

— Joseph Hurley

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