Samuel Beckett’s Endgame is one of the most beautiful, enigmatic, and absurdly funny plays of the twentieth century. It is built as a kind of riddle, in which many meanings can be found – or, Beckett would probably prefer to say, no meaning.
The play is set in a single spare room with two windows and a door, and has only four characters, all of them archetypes as much as real people: Hamm, the master of the house, now blind and confined to a wheelchair; Clov, Hamm’s servant, who is mysteriously unable to sit down and seems perpetually bound to his master’s bidding; and Hamm’s two ancient parents, Nagg and Nell, who are living out their final days in two trashcans beside their son’s wheelchair, dreaming of youthful romance and longing for sugar plums.
The scenario may sound bleak, but Endgame owes as much to vaudeville and the commedia dell’ arte as it does to existential philosophy. In the right hands this poetic meditation can be downright hilarious, with Beckett’s text providing a steady stream of one-liners and clown show routines. I chose the play for four members of our Resident Acting Company – Will LeBow, Karen MacDonald, Tommy Derrah, and Remo Airaldi –four comic geniuses who have played together in so many productions that they are now perfectly equipped to tackle Endgame.
The production will be directed by Marcus Stern, whose recent shows at the A.R.T. have included Donnie Darko and The Onion Cellar. Marcus has a gift for stunning stage pictures – his productions of Nocturne, The America Play, and Buried Child were among the most beautiful and haunting evenings I’ve had in the theatre. The combination of Marcus, our Company actors, and Beckett’s great text should make this a truly memorable Endgame. And in good time; the play hasn’t been staged at the A.R.T. since 1984.