“I don’t know about the play, but the acting is great!” commented Judy Hensley after the first part of the play “Endgame” at the Ed Stafford Theatre on Friday night. The play is by Samuel Beckett, an Irish playwright of the avant-garde post-World War II group who lived in Paris and produced plays, novels, and poetry which seem overall to give a nihilistic view of life. Beckett, however, has a tragicomic slant.
The play has a curious beginning, with the audience coming to realize that the chair under the dustcover in full view from the moment one entered the theatre, actually had a person in it. That person is Hamm, uncovered by his son, Clov. Clov is in a striped suit and wearing slippers. He walks with a pronounced limp. The other two furniture drapes are removed to reveal two large trash cans, which we later learn contain Nell and Nagg, Hamm’s parents. None of this is explained. One just figures it out from the dialogue.
Clov has a comic way of forgetting what he is doing. He needs to look out the window. He is not tall enough. He goes and fetches a latter, with great effort. He sets it up, looks out the window; when Hamm demands he go to the other window, he has to fetch the latter again - and so on. Hamm also demands he fetch a looking glass, which adds to the confusion.
Hamm is disrespectful of Clov, summoning him with a whistle. This is finally the breaking point for Clov, who, although he is badly handicapped himself, is the only caretaker for his blind, crippled father. He wheels his father around in an armchair with casters, complaining they should have a proper wheelchair with bicycle wheels.
In the meantime, Hamm is carrying on a conversation with Nagg and Nell, his parents. My favorite line in the play belongs to Nagg. Hamm is berating him for not meeting his responsibility toward him, Nagg’s son, since Nagg created him. Nagg says, “But I didn’t know it was you.”
Confusing thought it may be, the play makes perfect sense to me now. Not so when I wrote an essay on Beckett when I was in school. Dohm’s parents and grandparents came down from Denver to see the play, Ryder’s mother attended on Sunday, and Jodyanna Gallegos’ father, Dan Gallegos, was also there. We, the audience, were privileged to watch possibly the best acting we have seen in a college-produced play.