Monday, March 16, 2009

Endgame at A.R.T.

The American Repertory Theatre has a long history with Samuel Beckett's Endgame. 25 years ago, Joanne Akalaitis received both praise and criticism for her staging of the master work in a subway station as opposed to Beckett's original descriptive location. Beckett, a believer in the playwright as auteur mode of playmaking, was deeply enraged by Akalaitis' directorial liberty. As a defender of director's license to interpret, I believe a playwright who wants absolute control of his product should write a novel or make a film. The current production of Beckett's Endgame at the ART supports my theory that playwrights don't always know what is best for their work. This production, dedicated to the original intention of the author, plays merely as a museum piece within the annals of theatre history and certainly has no relevance or interest to anyone outside of theatre scholars and students.

My primary contention with this production was its insistence on authorial interpretation. I felt that the production was so limited by Beckett's intention that they neglected the poetry of the language at the expense of emotional resonance. Lines that should carry prophetic magnitude were tossed aside in favor of quippy delivery pandering to unreceived laughs. The dramaturgic information informed us that Beckett intended this to be a comedy, but nothing about the uninspired, robotic performances suggested comedy except for the rapidity through which lines were delivered.

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