Theatre Mirror Reviews - "The Beckett Project"

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note: entire contents copyright 2001 by Larry Stark

"The Beckett Project"

Developed and Performed in Ensemble by
Sean Barney
Tim Barney
Shelley Hager
Kevin Lavelle

Directed and Designed by
William Donnelly
Morgan Kaegael
Christopher Scully
Daniel Scully

Voiceover by Irene Daly
Production Manager Heather McNamara

One admirable characteristic of the Industrial Theatre's work is precision. It matters to these people exactly where the shadow of an actor's head falls on a wall, where and how someone stands, how long a pause lasts, how things are said. This attention to detail is put to perfect use in their ensemble piece "The Beckett Project" --- a hemi-demi-semi-biographical investigation of Samuel Beckett's style and approach. If you've never liked any Beckett don't go, but if you have you may be convinced that what they are doing is a newly discovered unproduced play by this minimalist master.

The production consists of flat confrontations, endless repetitions in which the alteration of one word appears significant, bitten snippets of laconic exchanges with friends, bouts of staring resignedly at a typewriter the writer must will himself to touch. The work, as presented, is a constant paring down, an unwilling yet restless search for the irreducible essence of anything, of everything, of nothing. The actors replay scenes without apparent variation and with never a hint of particular place, person, emotion. At one point Beckett is heard re-arranging the specific stance an immobile actor will take standing like a mannequin alone at the center of a tiny stage. The exact tilt of head, position of hands, emptiness of gaze are significant to him. One wonders why anyone should worry so desperately over what must be left out --- yet he continues.

The result, of course, is that all that ruthlessly irrelevant banality takes on a riveting intensity. The nothing happening onstage becomes interesting. The slow, quivering approach of a finger toward a typewriter key, the identical repetition of a sigh, the care with which a drink is poured seems more meaningful than pages of dialogue --- often because, overtly, no meaning exists.

The Industrial Theatre has been together as a company for five years. Works like "The Beckett Project" appear to be the precise, careful tip of vast icebergs of work and rehearsals together, work done for the work's sake that would be as careful, as precise done before full houses, or empty ones, for the sheer dedication to the work itself. But as with all theater, the work is at its best with an appreciative audience present. If you like Beckett, or just like good theater, there's still one week-end left to see some.


"The Beckett Project" (till 24 February)
Leverett Old Library Theatre, Mill Street, CAMBRIDGE
(617) 496-2222

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide