What an opening night! Ferocious theater at the Shakspeare – No Exit by Jean-Paul Sartre and Endgame by Samuel Beckett.
These seldom produced plays, this year’s CSC Studio Series offerings, called out the best of the company. The result was physical discomfort and shock on the part of us, the audience. I could not get comfortable, shifting in my seat, slouching, blinking to help my eyes, which were inexplicably dry.
We all knew we were watching great theater, but only clapped a bit over minimum at the end of each, though the actors deserved standing ovations. It was just shock at these stark characters face to face with themselves and each other.
No Exit is a literal picture of Sartre’s hell, though with no torture or infernal flames. Three ordinary looking people thrust one after the other into an uncomfortable drawing room by a perhaps bellhop, then discovering this is hell, and uncovering why each is there. One character interestingly is lesbian, which introduces more twists and triangles. They devour each other.
What happens when the door suddenly opens? I’m not going to tell you. Sure looked like hell to me.
Endgame was, as though that were possible, better. Giles Davies (Hamm) and Jeremy Dubin (Clov) as the centers, supported by Hamm’s parents, ghosts in separate garbage cans.
Hamm is in a wheelchair and cannot stand. His caretaker Clov cannot sit. Viciousness, power, dependence, raw loneliness, even a bit of humor – Hamm’s dog, that hat, the ladder.
A powerful evening of theater, each written by its European author as he faced the smoldering rubble that was Europe at the end of World War II.
Though neither play is directly about that war.
Bleak. Powerful. Necessary. Go. See. These. Plays.