Mining landscapes

A Piece of Monologue, Act Without Words II, and Not I

by Samuel Beckett
Directed by Tim O'Leary
Expanded Arts
85 Ludlow Street
Non-union production (closes March 14 - call for schedule)
Review by Andrés J. Wrath

Samuel Beckett's fragmentary pieces A Piece of Monologue, Act Without Words II, and Not I received a top-notch production by director Tim O'Leary at Expanded Arts. In this production, the phrase "less is more" is a key element; with the limited means of this tiny storefront theatre, the fragments of Beckett's landscape came alive in a frightening, heartbreaking, illuminating and, oh yes, very very funny way.

The evening started off with A Piece of Monologue, beautifully acted by Roger Hendricks Simon. The speaker (Simon) reads scribblings from a stack of papers with mundane things on them. The speaker grows in terror as he reads his stack, letting the papers fall to the floor, because he always ends up facing the dead end of the wall. Simon's performance was simply superb as the speaker. He displayed a restraint that draws an audience in and holds it there.

Act Without Words II is a play with a simple premise: A (Bruce Lloyd) gets up, prays, puts on his disheveled clothes, takes off his disheveled clothes, goes back to bed. B (Jim Williams) does the same only more energetically, and as he goes back to bed A gets up again and the play ends. Stripped of words the play is all superficial action; but what it speaks in terms of the repetitiveness of existence is painful and profound. Showing clowns' energy, Lloyd and Williams were a funny and sad pair, acutely unaware of the absurdity of their repetitive lives.

Not I has a simple premise as well. Auditor (Jim Williams) kneels in a dim light as Mouth (Shelley McPherson) talks and talks and talks into infinity about SHE's plight. In actuality, Mouth is really the voice of SHE, who can't mutter a word. Illuminated only by fluorescent pink lipstick, Mouth was a stunning creation, and what Ms. McPherson conveyed with only her glow-in-the-dark mouth was disturbing and ultimately very moving.

Directing Beckett is no easy feat: applause goes out to Tim O'Leary, who directed Beckett with a steady and no-nonsense sensibility. Many times, directors like to throw a lot of extraneous activities to jazz things up or play up the hysterical mumbling, as though Beckett's people aren't really people at all, only insane and cartoonish types. O'Leary seemed to understand that Beckett is a man of little excess, and his simple staging was emotionally full as a result of that understanding.

The sound design by Dan Jurow captured Beckett's world very well; the costumes by Jennifer Moeller added nice touches, and the set by Scott Schreck was minimal but effective.
Box Score:

Writing: 2
Directing: 2
Acting: 2
Set: 1
Costumes: 1
Lighting/Sound: 1

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Copyright 2000 Andrés J. Wrath