Bend it like Beckett


One man’s unhappiness is another man’s hilarity.

One man’s unhappiness is another man’s hilarity.

Rated 4.0

How do you describe a Samuel Beckett play? Well, that’s the beauty, and the challenge, of Beckett. You can’t, really; you just have to experience Beckett.

Playwright Beckett is the master of the bleak existential play. His two most famous plays, Waiting for Godot and Endgame, have no classic story arcs, and the dialogue is quite esoteric. This is theater of ideas and language, of subtleties and obscurities, where words are rhythmic and there is a pause and effect. You have to come prepared for the complex and accept the unexpected—you have to bend it like Beckett.

Ed Claudio is a Beckett aficionado. Throughout the years, his Actor’s Workshop Theatre has staged Waiting for Godot a couple times, and now he’s bringing back Endgame for a second time.

This time around, Claudio reprises his roll as Hamm while directing duties are in the capable hands of David Pierini and Michael Garbarini. They have pulled together a skillful cast of the senior statesmen of Sacramento theater—Claudio, Dan Harlan as Clov, Mitch Agruss as Nagg and Boots Martin as Nell. The years, experience and depth of talent in the four stars are remarkable and an absolute pleasure to behold.

Endgame refers to the closing moves in a chess game, where the remaining pieces are few and the options are limited. If Godot is about endless waiting, then Endgame is about endless leaving. The setting is a nondescript house, described as on the seashore, but it soon becomes apparent that the time is purgatory, where there is no longer anything outside, neither nature nor people. The simple set is a basic black box, with a nondescript upholstered chair, two trash cans and an ever-moving ladder.

Clov is the codependent manservant to Hamm, a blind, crippled curmudgeon stuck in a chair, while Hamm’s two parents Nagg and Nell are stuck in trash cans. It’s a bleak existence, though fraught with strange humor, or as Nell states, “Nothing is funnier than unhappiness, I grant you that.” And so the absurdity begins and eventually ends in a captivating production of a strange, yet fascinating Beckett.