The narrator of Samuel Beckett’s “First Love” declares of his birthday, “The day itself comes back to me, when I put my mind to it, and I often celebrate it, after my fashion.” 2006 marks the mordant Irishman’s centenary, and Curious Theater Branch aims to celebrate it after their fashion. Their commemoration embarks this weekend in partnership with the MCA and several local theatre troupes. The museum’s galleries play host to a sampling of Beckett’s shorter plays, popping up in some fairly unlikely locations: the freight elevator, for instance, will contain the several urns and players within Beckett’s “Play,” while David O’Donnell performs “Fizzle Four” in a stairwell. The programming varies from day to day. Saturday evening features the Hypocrites’ “Not I,” a highlight of last spring’s PAC/Edge festival, while Sunday promises the spectacle of an array of Chicago performers tackling the early “Texts for Nothing.” Event mastermind Jenny Magnus finds a perfect match between the writer and the setting. “Beckett’s work invites you to try to get as close to it as possible,” she explains, “but however close you get, it still remains quite chilly.” Beckett’s hyper-visual imagination, exemplified by his obsessively detailed stage directions, is also accentuated by the museum’s glossy and stark imagery. Magnus cites Beckett’s “exquisitely pained” consciousness as a continuing source of insight into the necessity and difficulty of acknowledging the suffering of others. The Beckett celebration continues in following weeks at Prop Theatre, but the unique setting and format of the MCA show shouldn’t be missed. (John Beer)
“No Danger of the Spiritual Thing” runs at the MCA, 220 East Chicago, (312)397-4010, through January 15; and then at Prop Thtr, 3502-4 North Elston, (773)267-6660, through February 5.