Steppenwolf Theatre presents
‘Ending is the beginning.’ ‘Time is zero.’ ‘Nothing is funnier than unhappiness.’ Nobel Prize-winning playwright Samuel Beckett penned a one act play with moments of profound absurdity. Steppenwolf Theatre presents ENDGAME directed by ensemble member Frank Galati. The epitome of a dysfunctional relationship, Clov is indentured to Hamm. Hamm is a bitter, needy disabled man. Clov is a victim of emotional abuse. Shut away in a stark fortress, they exist without really living. Their lives are routines of the same questions and same answers. Also, bottled up, literally, with them in the home are Hamm’s aging parents longing for yesterday. ENDGAME makes a sport of laughing about nothing.
For theatre goers that like a plot, ENDGAME isn’t a good match. For those willing to put the puzzle together without looking at the box top, Beckett and Galati join forces to make it an interesting activity. Under Galati’s masterful direction, Beckett’s often meaningless prose is heightened for a laugh. William Petersen (Hamm) plays the ludicrous blind man to perfection. His moment of “little right…little left…little center” is maddeningly ridiculous. As soon as Hamm is awake, Ian Barford (Clov) goes from light-hearted giggler to oppressed servant. His moments of unseen rebellion are mischievously amusing. In smaller roles, Francis Guinan (Nagg) and Martha Lavey (Nell) are an odd tribute to the treatment of the aged.
A massive sheet serving as a curtain is raised to reveal similar sheets covering a set with minimal objects. It’s a dramatic visual designed by James Schuette. The silly twist is uncovering a sheet clad Petersen to see a miniature sheet on his face. It’s another moment of finding the funny in Beckett’s farce. What was Beckett’s end game? Does this play have a point? Is this a poignant tale of life’s irrelevance? Or was Beckett absurd for his own amusement? Maybe it’s just about a clove being necessary to add flavor to ham.
A man with little tolerance for the absurd, Bill sums up the experience in three word: “glad it ended.”