The Complete Lost Works of Samuel Beckett…
nytheatre.com review by George Tynan Crowly
August 18, 2006
[Editor's Note: The full title of this show is The Complete Lost Works of Samuel Beckett as Found in an Envelope (partially burned) in a Dustbin in Paris Labeled: "Never to be Performed. Never. Ever. EVER! Or I'll Sue! I'LL SUE FROM THE GRAVE!!"]
What can one say about a show that is perfect in every aspect of its parody of Samuel Beckett, awake to what is ludicrous when Culture makes an icon of anybody, modest in means, sophisticated in intent, and—finally—thrillingly intelligent and funny? I say this: This is SMART! This is FUN! No wonder FringeNYC brought these three men back for a return engagement!
Samuel Beckett may or may not be your cup of tea, but you really don't need to know much about him to enjoy this. You'll gather from the show that he's considered a big-time genius, that his plays could verge on the numbingly repetitive, that his sets were very minimal and usually pretty grey, and you'll figure out that there were often garbage cans ("dust-bins") in the periphery. In fact, these Beckett parodies (excuse me—"Lost Works") are as much tribute as satire. Beckett's absurd comedy, his ability to capture the way we sound in our heads—it's all scrupulously, lovingly recreated here, along with a scathing portrait of the artist as a litigating control freak. I'd love to tell you about a pink bunny character who appears late in the show, or something hilarious that resembles a good old-fashioned sing-along, but I'm gonna stop right here. Comedy's got a right to its surprises.
Let me instead praise the praiseworthy. Ben Schneider, as "The Actor," is masterful. His characterization in a piece called "If" is an object lesson in the Method that could have taught Kim Stanley a thing or two, plus he had us all screaming with laughter. Schneider has this amazing handle on how to be Everyman, the way Roseanne Barr used to, or Seth Greene, or Chaplin (both of whom he vaguely resembles), or Buddy Hackett. He's just so there, rooted in himself, doing whatever there is to do, that he brings him and us right into the here and now. The guy's so great he really should be doing Beckett. The other performer-creators, Greg Allen as "Presentoir," who does a hilarious take on the light and the dark, and golden-throated Danny Thompson, he of the priceless "bunny" character (about which I'll say nothing more), well, these two are, likewise, masters at what they do. All three originated this work a while back, and it shows. I felt I was watching Olympic gold medalists ice-skating around when all the pressure's off. Because they don't take it seriously; not in the least. It couldn't ever be. Its integrity depends on its staying ridiculous and free.
If you like laughing, feeling smart, and grinning from ear to ear, see this.