LAST MOVES ON A CHESSBOARD: “ENDGAME”

BONNNIE GOLDBERG

Playwright Samuel Beckett, a master in the Theatre of the Absurd, is a genius to some and a puzzlement to others. You have the unique opportunity to discover your own interpretation until Sunday, February 5 as Long Wharf Theatre presents what is termed Beckett’s greatest work, “Endgame,” on Stage II on Sargent Drive in New Haven.

Be prepared to enter a grey world that opens with a deafening noise and closes with barely a whimper. It is at once a barren room and at the same time stuffed with clutter. In it are four lost souls trapped in an existence of their own making, one that defies escape and does not welcome hope. The residents of the space are vulnerable and isolated and pathetic, unable to rise above their static inaction. Think “Groundhog Day” with repetition day after day, a futile sameness to the human condition.

Presiding over his personal kingdom is Hamm, residing on a make believe throne, a chair on wheels, that he commands his servant Clov to maneuver from place to place at his bidding. Brian Dennehy’s Hamm is the masterful but cruel evil monarch who directs the every movement of the players in the “farce” of life. Hamm is blind and cannot stand while Clov sees “zero” and is unable to sit and there is a constant pull and push between them about staying or leaving. They need each other symbiotically but are unable to decisively make a stand. Clov, an accommodating Reg E. Cathey, has the power to withhold Hamm’s painkillers and Hamm can make sure Clov has no food. Clearly a standoff of co-dependency.

Suddenly revealed in this interplay between master and slave are the contents of two large dustbins tucked into the side of the stage where reside Hamm’s parents, Joe Grifasi’s Nagg and Lynn Cohen’s Nell, who laugh and cry in response to their tenuous situation and confinement. The futility of life is underscored, especially when Clov discovers a flea that has the poser to populate the world all over again and must be eliminated. This is the end of the world and the characters are waiting for the final move, like pawns or players on a chessboard that have been boxed in without viable choices to win the game. Even the king is left with no legitimate moves to succeed. Gordon Edelstein directs this drama of restrictions and freedoms with a spyglass focused on the fragility of the human state.

For tickets ($99.50), call Long Wharf Theatre, 222 Sargent Drive, New Haven at 203-787-4282 or online at www.longwharf.org. Performances are Tuesday at 7 p.m., Wednesday at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m., Thursday at 8 p.m., Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 3 p.m. and 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m.

Come pull back the grainy bed sheets to reveal how Beckett views the world, right-side-up or topsy-turvy, it’s all for you to decide.


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