Category: Archive

Theater Review Actors shine brightly in Beckett’s ‘Endgame’

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

By Joseph Hurley

ENDGAME, by Samuel Beckett. Directed by Stephen Golux. Featuring Matthew Lawler, David Fitzgerald, Jack R. Marks and Eve Parker. A Rude Mechanicals production. At the 30th Street Theater, 259 W. 30th St. NYC. Through May 28.

"Endgame," Dublin-born Samuel Beckett’s second play, written in 1957, four years after his acclaimed "Waiting for Godot," appears to be gaining on the first play, at least in terms of the number of productions it has of late been accorded.

The current production, at the 30th Street Theater, a venture of the energetic 2-year-old Rude Mechanicals Company, takes no liberties with the work of an author who was a notorious stickler when it came to how his plays were performed.

Innovative touches here are restricted to the actors playing Hamm and Clov, Matthew Lawler and David Fitzgerald, respectively, being considerably younger and less careworn than performers generally cast in the parts.

Beyond that, though, all is pretty much as Beckett intended, with the blind Hamm confined to a wheeled chair pushed about by the slavelike Clov, who makes use of a stiff-legged gait resembling Frankenstein’s.

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The play’s title, rendered in the original French as "Fin de Partie," derives from a term used in chess to designate the third and final part of the game. With its references to theatrical conventions, the work cannot help but suggest aspects of Shakespeare’s "King Lear," and, of course, at the same time, move its audiences to ponder the end of the game of life itself.

Hamm’s aged parents, Nagg and Nell, apparently legless, are housed in ashcans, from which they rise, periodically and briefly, usually to beg for food. They may stand as a comment on the manner in which society treats the elderly, or not, since Beckett characteristically leaves interpretation where he clearly feels it belongs, with the audience.

The ongoing dialogue between Hamm and Clov, in their mutual interdependency, mirrors much of what goes on Vladimir and Estragon, Didi and Gogo, of "Waiting for Godot."

Beckett calls for a pair of windows, one on each side of the stage, situated high up in the walls, so that the partially crippled Clov will have difficulty reaching them, even with the aid of his "steps," in this production an ordinary household ladder.

What Clov sees out of the window is the sea, and a possibly atomic landscape. When he finally sees a young boy standing on the shore, he makes good on his often repeated threat to leave the restricted space where Hamm, Nagg and Nell are confined. When we last see him, Clov is dressed for travel, wearing a raincoat, his single piece of luggage at his side.

The boy seen by Clov may be the same boy who appears on stage in "Godot," symbolizing, perhaps, hope, or maybe something entirely different. It seems fair enough to interpret the boy Clov sees, but who remains out of the audience’s view, as a new beginning, or in Clov’s mind, the merest possibility of one.

The cast assembled for the Rude Mechanicals production, under the clear, intelligent, unfussy direction of Stephen Golux, serves the text admirably. With the exception of the white-bearded Jack R. Marks as Nagg, the comparative youth of the company could be said to add to the inherent poignancy of the material, considering the generally hopeless state into which the characters have maneuvered themselves, long before their lives are spent.

The Nell of Eve Packer, an actress also familiar as a poet, is pretty in a youthful, fragile sort of way, which deepens the irony of her state.

But it is to the actors doing Hamm and Clov that the bulk of the weight of "Endgame" finally falls, and both Lawler and Fitzgerald come through admirably. Lawler, as Hamm, a role normally filled with one or another variety of human wreck, is as strong as he is clear-headed, delivering the complicated text ideally.

Fitzgerald, earnest and fresh-faced, wouldn’t immediately appear to be a logical candidate for the browbeaten son-servant Clov, but his skill and commitment win the day.

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