Set designer Michael Sommers’s carnival-like environment for Samuel Beckett’s avant-garde classic “Endgame” assaults the senses the minute you enter the house. It is a design that could perturb the famously inflexible playwright’s estate given that kaleidoscopic shadows, multimedia television and amusement-park sound effects seem unnecessary for a script whose barren landscape necessitates little more than two windows and a door. But it quickly establishes the tone for a production by director Christopher Bayes that seeks to amuse as well as to bemuse; that undermines wrist-slitting pathos with bathos; and that provides the perfect backdrop to the Chaplinesque and vaudeville-inspired physical theatrics of actors Allen Gilmore and Joe Foust in the leads. Along with first-class cameos by irascible Maury Cooper and a poignant Roslyn Alexander as Hamm’s parents confined to ashbins, the actors bask in the poetry of the language, imbuing it with rhythm and cadences not often heard in Beckett’s most despairing work. Indeed, in a penitential play so devoid of hope that a flea must be exterminated lest it jumpstart a new life cycle, the ribald humor and musicality comes across best. If I have any objections it is to the coda that ends the evening—an appendage of action not in the original script and crafted by both Bayes and Sommers that I won’t give away here but that will certainly infuriate Beckett purists who, like this reviewer, object to slamming down this play with any one interpretation. Like the musicality, the play’s metaphysics should have been allowed to soar. (F.O. Almeida)
This production is now closed.