Closet Drama/Musical: Let’s Not Turn the Weekend into a Beckett Play

Translated from the French by Kingbeat Fuller Foster.

A couple in their twenties lounge in a not-all-that cramped studio apartment.  She sits on a ratty couch staring into her device, earbud wires dangling from her ears.  Reclining in a decrepit recliner, he reads the print edition of the New York Times.  A coffee table still life installation: skull, vaping device, utility bills, vintage post cards (Bertolt Brecht, Buster Keaton), an incense burner sprouting three sticks burning simultaneously.

Behind, a Batik hanging, concrete block bookshelves.

She [staring down at her device, then removing the earbuds]: Hey, Sam [we can’t see him because he holds the paper open with two hands thrust wide, the paper shielding.  The headline is in Pearl Harbor font:  TRUMP AND MELANIA  DEAD; MURDER/SUICIDE]: Hey, Sam.  Do you still love me?

Sam: No.

She: But I love you.

Sam:  So you say.

She:  We’re five lines into the play and the so-called playwright hasn’t even bothered to give me a name yet.  Have you picked up on that?  Of course not.

Sam:  It’s because I haven’t said your name yet.

She:  Bullshit.  All he had to do is write in the directions above, a couple in their twenties, Sam and Sam, lounge in a not-all-that cramped studio apartment.  Plus, it seems like he got the title wrong.  Ionesco, not Beckett.

Male Sam lowers the newspaper and smiles enigmatically.

Female Sam: I used to think it was so cool we had the same name.  “Sam-plus-Sam= love” I wrote once on a dusty windshield instead of “wash me.”

Male Sam: [almost inaudibly]: In the late middle of the 20th century it sounds like. Nobody talks like that.  No one ever talked liked that.  Except in plays.  [He yawns, turns the page, re-hides his person behind the paper. ] Now the headline reads: Melania and Trump Dead, Suicide/Murder.

Female Sam:  I want you to move out.

Male Sam: [snatching newspaper down, ramming his legs to make the recliner un-recline, his feet slapping on the floor]: What???  Why????

Female Sam: Because you don’t love me anymore.

Male Sam: But I don’t love anyone.  Not MeMaw, not PaPa, not Mom, not Dad, not my shitass siblings, not Brooklyn, my job, not me.  You know what they say.  If you’re incapable of loving yourself, you’re incapable of loving in general. I’m the living proof.  Please don’t kick me out, Sam.

He gets up, heads to the kitchen area, methodically concocts a bloody mary. She has the buds back in, her eyes closed, sways to unheard melodies.

He returns, drink in hand.  She doesn’t realize he’s there.  He touches her arm.  She opens her eyes, smiles.  Takes the drink.

Female Sam [Her smile has turned into a sitcom smile]:  I want you to move out.  In four weeks.

Male Sam [singing to the tune of “Goodnight Irene”]:  My mother wished that I might be/A man of some renown/But I am just as refugee/As I go rambling round boys/As I go rambling round.

Female Sam:  If we had a tv, we could watch the suicide/assassination extravaganza.

Male Sam:  I got an idea.  Let’s listen to the same song at the same time.  We never listen to the same song at the same time.

Female Sam:  Like what? What song?

Male Sam:  “Nobody But Me.” The Human Beinz.

Female Sam: The Human Beings?

Male Sam:  Yes.

From his device the song is bluetoothed to a red cylindrical speaker.

No-no, no, no, no-no-no, no, no-no, no, no-no
Na-no, no, na-no, no-no, na-no, no-no, no, no-no, no
Nobody can do the (Shing-a-ling) like I do
Nobody can do the (Skate) like I do
Nobody can do (Boogaloo) like I do
Nobody can do (Philly) like I do
Well, don’t you know
I’m gonna skate right through
Ain’t nobody do it but me
Nobody but me (nobody but me)
Yeah, I’m gonna spin, I do
Ain’t nobody do it but me, babe
(Nobody but me)
Well, let me tell you nobody
Nobody but me
Let me tell you, nobody
(Nobody) nobody
(Nobody) nobody
(Nobody) nobody
(Nobody) nobody
(Nobody) nobody
(Nobody) nobody
(Nobody)
—Instrumental Interlude—
No-no, no, no, no, no-no-no, no, no-no, no, no-no
Na-no, no, na-no, no-no, na-no, no-no, no, no-no, no
Nobody can do the (Shing-a-ling) like I do
Nobody can do the (Skate) like I do
Nobody can do (Boogaloo) like I do
Nobody can do (Philly) like I do
Ooooooh, yeah
Nobody, nobody
Nobody, nobody

 

Fin.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Druid Godot at Spoleto (A Review)

4/5 of the cast of the Druid Theater Company’s production of “Waiting for Godot”

This morning our local paper ran an article about audiences’ bailing during performances at this year’s Spoleto Festival. This happened at Thursday’s matinee performance of the Druid Theater Company’s killer production of Waiting for Godot. Certainly, I’m not one to mourn fewer philistines in my presence; I only wish the woman behind me. who found every furrowed brow tee-hee worthy, and the woman in front of me, whose incessant coughing brought to mind John Keats’s last days, would have left – or better yet moved to more advantageous vacated seats, because in all fairness, they seemed to be enjoying the show.

I could blame my impatience by claiming I’ve entered the Elisabeth Kübler-Ross anger stage of grieving. Certainly, in a less random, less bleak universe, Judy Birdsong would be sitting between Ned and me, but the truth of the matter is I have always been an irritable audience member too easily distracted by whispers, fake laughs, and lung-heaving coughing.

Now, you might be wondering why someone grieving would go to see a play that Brooks Atkinson described in his 1956 New York Times review as a drama conveying “melancholy truths about the hopeless destiny of the human race.”

Because misery loves company, that’s why. Sing it, Ponzo:

Have you not done tormenting me with your accursed time! It’s abominable! When! When! One day, is that not enough for you, one day he went dumb, one day I went blind, one day we’ll go deaf, one day we were born, one day we shall die, the same day, the same second, is that not enough for you? (Calmer.They give birth astride of a grave, the light gleams an instant, then it’s night once more. (emphasis Beckett)

Even in my woebegone state, I wouldn’t trade places with any of the characters.

Also, the play has more than its share of laughs, especially in this Druid production. Each actor, except for the boy, is a talented physical comedian. The twin protagonists, played by Aaron Monaghan (Estragon) and Marty Rea (Vladimir), are worthy of Laurel and Hardy, on whom Beckett modeled Estragon and Vladimir. Mick Lally in the Irish Times describes the two together on stage as looking “uncannily, like the marriage between a question mark and an exclamation point.” Like, well, Oliver and Hardy.

But most of all, I went because of the language of the play. Beckett’s own translation of his original French is quite beautiful, especially conveyed in the lilting Irish voices of Monaghan, Rea, and also in the voices of Rory Nolan (Pozzo), and Garrett Lombard (Lucky).

Beckett worked for a time as James Joyce’s secretary when Joyce was writing Finnegan’s Wake, and I could hear echoes in of that work in this production.

Here’s a snippet of Joyce reading from Finnegan’s Wake.

 

To me, tis lovely.

Here’s the trailer for the Druid production.

 

I suspect a bad production of Waiting for Godot would be wretched. If you don’t have an ear for the music of language, the plot might seem uneventful (and it is repetitive); therefore, it’s absolutely mandatory that you have topnotch actors like Bert Lahr, EG Marshall, Ian McKellen, and Patrick Stewart. The director (Garry Hynes), cast, and set designer (Francis O’Connor) all deserve high praise.

Pro tip: perhaps you should be familiar with a play before forking out $80 for a seat. I promise you, if you found this production boring, you’re not going to find a better one.

Of course, I’m no literary scholar, and you could overload an ocean freighter with various interpretations, but what Godot means to me is that the repetitiveness of life misdirects our eyes to a future in which we expect something different, not realizing that munching on a carrot across the table from your wife reading the paper can seem like sheer paradise in retrospect.

How do you say, “Relish the Moment” in Latin?