By Martin F. Kohn
A further examination of what passes for life in the post-apocalypse, Samuel Beckett’s “Endgame” is a kind of companion piece to “Waiting for Godot.” Think of it as “Godot” Goes Indoors. Where “Godot”‘s four characters are mired in a desolate landscape, “Endgame”‘s foursome are confined to one room, and three of them are unable to get up and walk away. Besides, where would they go? As one of them notes, “There is no more nature.”
As my mother used to say, stuck is stuck. Beckett never uses that particular word, but it’s an apt one for his take on the human condition. “You’re on earth. There’s no cure for that,” says Hamm, “Endgame”‘s central character (literally – he remains seated center-stage throughout). In apparent retaliation for having brought him into the world, Hamm keeps his elderly, decrepit parents in matching garbage cans. Keeping them all alive is the only character able to move: Hamm’s faithful servant, Clov.
Given so much immobility, “Endgame” amounts to a dare for directors and actors. You’re in “Endgame”: Find a cure for that. In a highly effective Abreact production, John Jakary and his cast manage to do just that. Very little of the activity onstage is broadly physical, but that doesn’t necessarily entail stasis.
Consider how much Dax Anderson does as Nagg, Hamm’s can-bound father, with only his head and an occasional hand visible above the rim. Anderson’s face is almost always in flux, registering a substantial number of feelings and reactions, at one point very nearly becoming the Greek mask of tragedy, and the actor uses a couple of different voices to great effect. Sarah Galloway, though not as polished, holds her own in the much smaller role of Hamm’s mother, Nell.
Both of those actors are aided greatly by makeup (Jakary acknowledges Kelly Rossi’s assistance with that) that makes them look as if they’re covered in dust and accentuates their features.
Charles Reynolds, as Clov, the only ambulatory character, maintains an Ygor-like hunch and a clubfoot to indicate that nobody makes this journey free of infirmities. Reynolds also plays Clov with a soft-spoken submissiveness – most of the time.
Contrast this to David Schoen’s loud and blustering Hamm, trying to compensate in volume for his blindness and lack of mobility, false power substituting for the real power he once had. Here, again, is the hand of the makeup artist: Under Hamm’s dark sunglasses are two orbs of red-rimmed desolation. Schoen, the glue that holds the play together, navigates Beckett’s daunting dialogue with equanimity.
Those who remember Jakary’s 2001 production of “Godot” at the Zeitgeist Theatre know that he has a particular flair for Beckett. For everyone else, it’s time to find out.
The Abreact Performance Space, 1301 W. Lafayette #113, Detroit. Friday-Saturday through May 5, plus Sunday, April 30. 90 minutes without intermission. By donation. 313-454-1542. http://www.theabreact.com