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Wednesday, 14 December 2011 12:29

A Last Tape in very high fidelity

Written by Steve Callahan
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The Details

The Black Mirror Theatre Company has opened Becket’s Krapp’s Last Tape. The venue is an odd one for live theatre—a small letterpress print-shop. And the theatre company is a brand new one. That’s a tempting combination for me!

And when the evening was to consist of Sam Beckett’s painfully beautiful Krapp’s Last Tape I really didn’t dare miss it. I’m very glad I didn’t! It’s a truly lovely production!

The play premiered in 1958, right after Endgame. It’s a one-act monologue by an aged Mr. Krapp. Well, actually it’s a duologue between Krapp and his recorded younger selves. The tape recorder really serves as a second member of the cast.

All his adult life Mr. Krapp has used the occasion of his birthday to make an audio recording of his journal for the year. Now we watch as he listens to fragments of these recordings of himself when he was thirty, forty, fifty years younger. Certainly it’s a memory play, but though Krapp is filled with regret and loss over these memories, we also see bitter contempt for and rejection of his younger enthusiasms and idealisms.

We hear memories of hope, of death, of lost chances of love. We hear erotic memories. All these make the play much warmer and accessibly human than the colder and more abstract Godot and Endgame. Krapp’s Last Tape has been called the most autobiographical of Beckett’s plays, and scholars with their fine sieves have picked myriad incidents out of the author’s past to link to this play. But forget all that; the play is, after all, poetry; it appeals to us directly.

Actor Rob Suozzi and director Dennis Corcoran have created an evening that is pristinely true to Beckett’s vision. And that’s what one must do with Beckett. Not only the words, but every gesture, every pause, every bit of business, every use of light is pure poetry. One doesn’t idly alter a poem.

And yet, over many productions, Beckett himself made small alterations to this script—a word here, a stage direction there. Mr. Corcoran has included a brief song which Beckett eliminated after early productions, and he has added a bit of pre-show business for Krapp, but even for me, a Beckett purist, it all felt true to the script.

Rob Suozzi, one must admit, is some thirty years too young for this role, but he has a strong, stage-worthy face and a great shock of gray hair that make us suspend our disbelief. Moreover he is a masterful actor with a deep understanding of the role and a gorgeous command of the pause.

Technically the play is deceptively simple. But the use of light and dark is very important, and here these effects are beautifully accomplished with almost nothing more than the existing lights at Firecracker Press; the play of shadows as Krapp goes offstage and downstairs is wonderfully effective.

All in all this is a most promising offering from a new small company. Look for more fine things from the Black Mirror Theatre.

Performances continue at the Firecracker Press, 2838 Cherokee, through December 17. Curtain is at 7:00. For information call 314-740-6514 or visit www.blackmirrortheatre.com.

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