There are plays that grab you from their opening moments and keep you on the edge of your seat throughout. And then there’s Endgame, the latest from A Noise Within.

E315526aa4b638d6f-789x1024 It’s not that ANW hasn’t pulled out all the stops, including a topnotch cast—three Resident Artists and one frequent guest—and a team of top-drawer designers.

It’s simply that “The play is [indeed] the thing,” and if you’re anything like this reviewer, Samuel Beckett’s Théâtre de l’Absurde classic is likely to prove far more lulling than compelling.

To be fair, avant garde theater is not now nor ever has been my cup of tea, and I must admit that even a quick glance at A Noise Within’s plot summary sent up warning signs:

E084526aa4aad8633-1024x819 “Hamm, his servant Clov, and his parents Nell and Nagg all stay in the room, each with their own weaknesses, causing them to be dependent on one another. Nell and Nagg are both legless and live in two trash cans alongside one another. Hamm is blind and immobilized, but he controls access to the cupboard containing food necessary for survival. Clov moves Hamm around the room and completes simple tasks such as opening the curtains to view the nothingness outside and fetching Hamm’s stuffed dog. Throughout the play, Hamm engages his servant in mind games meant to distract him from his terror of dying.”

E285526aa4b204dde-1024x819 I should have known that all this bizarreness would not be up my alley, and if it is up yours, and particularly if you happen to be a Samuel Beckett fan, do see this production. It is well acted, particularly by Jeremy Rabb as Clov. Mitchell Edmunds and Jill Hill are quite good too as Nagg and Nell. Director Geoff Elliott gives his all to Hamm, though more of Rabb’s natural, unaffected style might serve both character and play better.

Endgame’s first five dialog-free minutes are a tour-de-force display of physical comedy by Rabb that would do Buster Keaton proud.

And then the characters start to say things like “One day you’ll say to yourself, I’m tired, I’ll sit down, and you’ll go and sit down. Then you’ll say, I’m hungry, I’ll get up and get something to eat. But you won’t get up. You’ll say, I shouldn’t have sat down, but since I have I’ll sit on a little longer, then I’ll get up and get something to eat. But you won’t get up and you won’t get anything to eat.”

As I said before, not my cup of tea.  Not up my alley.

E248526aa4ae34c7c-1024x761 Only the highest praise are in order for Endgame’s deliberately dark, dank, dirty, distressed design, masterful work by scenic designer Jeanine A. Ringer, costume designer Angela Balogh Calin, lighting designer Karyn D. Lawrence, hair, wig, and makeup designer Danielle Griffith, and prop master Abra Brayman. That being said, dark and dim don’t necessarily encourage alertness in a play that’s already more than a bit of a snoozer.

Lindy Dusenbery is production manager and Maria Uribe is head stitcher.

In the end, perhaps the best thing about Endgame for this reviewer is that it ended relatively quickly, in a mere ninety minutes. Still, I can’t deny that I found myself frequently glancing at my watch in hopes that Endgame would come to an end sooner than later.

A Noise Within, 3352 East Foothill Blvd, Pasadena.

–Steven Stanley
October 27, 2013
Photos: Craig Schwartz

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