Tell Me How To Get To ENDGAME Street — Review
Nihilistic despair is shot through an absurdist sensibility, and presented as the best and bleakest Sesame Street episode, in the Irish Repertory Theatre’s staging of Endgame, Samuel Beckett’s 1957 play, which has just announced a well-earned extension. With director Ciarán O’Reilly confidently foregrounding physicality, its cast of four—Patrice Johnson Chevannes, Joe Grifasi, Bill Irwin, and John Douglas Thompson—delivers a masterclass in high-concept, low-entry-bar theatre; the platonic kind of in-person performance one might daydream about when the words “troupe of players” is invoked.
In set designer Charlie Corcoran’s tight, dingy, brick-walled room with boarded up windows which reveal even more brick, Clov (Irwin) shuffles from errand to errand, as dictated by Hamm (Thompson) whose imperious voice barks orders from the putrid comfort of his makeshift wheelchair, cozy in the criminally stylish coat and shades by Orla Long. Waiting for something, anything to happen in this quasi post-apocalyptic purgatory, this often involves Clov placing a stepladder by the windows, throwing his limp right leg over its top rung, and reporting what he sees—there are two small holes in each; not all hope is lost—as on one side is land, on the other is sea. Where they are in the world, or how they’ve come to live with each other, remains unstated, with only the bare bones of their Sisyphean dynamic keeping them (and the one-act play) going.
“Can there be misery–YAWN–loftier than mine?” Hamm wonders aloud, as he neglects his parents, Nagg (Grifasi) and Nell (Chevannes), who are inexplicably confined to two individual trash cans. They bob up and down to play off each other like a Statler and Waldorf out of Revelations, engaging in despairingly funny call-and-response vaudeville bits and reminiscing on times when their jokes landed on each other. Though the four characters are doomed to an understanding that nothing will change, this daringly droll exercise in post-Industrial futility whips up faith in the best the medium has to offer: pure performance, committed to excellent material, and staged with great care.
Endgame is in performance through April 9, 2023 at the Irish Repertory Theatre on West 22nd Street in New York City. For tickets and more information, visit here.