Saturday, December 15, 2007

Beckett Shorts

Photo/Joan Marcus

After watching JoAnne Akalaitis's remarkably smooth, clear, and precise production of Beckett Shorts, you'll know if you like Samuel Beckett or not. In four broodingly comic meditations, the human condition is fully explored: whistled into life ("Act Without Words I"), goaded into action ("Act Without Words II"), thrown together in the wilderness ("Rough For Theater I"), and abandoned to one's imagination ("Eh Joe"). These pieces are largely physical ones (which plays to the strength of the centerpiece, Mikhail Baryshnikov), but that also makes them highly accessible, with clear-cut actions, needs, and failures. They're also well supported by Alexander Brodsky's set -- playful sandbox or apocalyptic desert -- and Philip Glass's haunting interludes. There are also great performances by the marvelous Bill Camp and Karen Kandel, serious actors who give Beckett's words the somber bounce that they need. For a showcase that's only seventy minutes long, this is a full-bodied (and fully recommended) performance, if for nothing other than the serious exposure to Beckett done well.

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