Sunday, August 23, 2009

An Underheard Play: The Rest (and Too Much of the First) is Silence

Samuel Beckett depicted on an Irish commemorat...Image via Wikipedia
By which I mean Samuel Beckett's "Happy Days" is a brain play, best suited to a small venue, cramped and intimate. The actress has all the lines, and she spends the first act buried to her waist in an earth mound and the brief second act buried up to her neck in the same dirt. (Dirt = death? Whatever it represents, it's winning.)

It's all voice and facial expression, all one big physical metaphor. The ideas behind it all are still true enough. But the play itself is transparent. We see right through it to those ideas, which makes it an easy play. (May I call it Powerpoint Drama?)

Letting it be swallowed up outdoors with half the audience straining to see and to hear -- which was my own experience at the CalShakes performance this afternoon -- invents difficulties that present no rewards.

Robert Hurwitt likes it better than I do, though I agree with his praise of actress Patty Gallagher -- who parachuted into the role when celeb Marsha Mason dropped out (and don't get me started on aging stars yearning for one last ego trip down Sunset Boulevard).

Gallagher really is excellent. Hurwitt says that, "Buried up to her neck, it's remarkable how well her expressive features and Beckett's words can fill so large a space."

Except they don't. Game try, though, in what I, as eyewitness, now have the right to describe as one of Beckett's lesser efforts.

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