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STAGE REVIEW : Beckett--by Beckett and Cluchey

February 26, 1988|DON SHIRLEY

"Beckett Directs Beckett," the title of the double bill at Ensemble Studio Theatre, is not completely accurate. Samuel Beckett directed Rick Cluchey in "Krapp's Last Tape," which forms the bulk of this touring production, but it was Cluchey who staged "Come and Go," Beckett's brief "dramaticule" that closes the program.

No matter. From the available evidence, including the news that Beckett will soon direct a film version of this "Krapp's" and two other Beckett productions by Cluchey's San Quentin Drama Workshop, Cluchey is plugged in to Beckett's intentions. Beckett probably would approve of Cluchey's version of "Come and Go."

In fact, because "Come and Go" is far less familiar than "Krapp's," it's the real revelation of the evening. Three women sit on a cramped bench, wearing broad-rimmed hats that cast their faces in shadow, holding their hands rigidly across their laps. They may be out of "Macbeth"; one of them asks, "When did we three last meet?"

But for these witches, the hurly-burly is already done. The toil, if not the trouble, is behind them. Each of them does exit the stage for a moment, slowly and formally, while the other two exchange a whispered secret about the one who has left. Then, when all three have returned and have nothing to say to each other, they join hands in a complicated, weaving pattern.

The pauses, the incantatory voices and the deep shadows (designed by Kevin Mahan) are hypnotic. "Come and Go" is a haunting evocation of Beckett's themes.

Cluchey's Krapp is a crotchety old fellow, without the tenderness that sometimes softens this play. "Bah!" he exclaims, as he throws away a banana peel, or wipes the table clean of his old tapes. Cluchey contorts his face into a forest of wrinkles, highlighted by Bud Thorpe's lighting.

Beckett has changed a few details since the original text was published. Krapp no longer sings snatches of a song, "Now the Day Is Over." Too obvious, perhaps? On the other hand, by adding light and shadow to the backstage space where Krapp goes to retrieve his tapes, Beckett has slightly enlarged Krapp's world--or at least suggested the possibility of something out there . Perhaps the day isn't quite over.

However you interpret it, you should see this production if you care about Beckett. Just don't go on a windy night. At the performance I saw, the wind set off a fan in the building's cooler. The noise came and went throughout the evening, seriously distracting from the intensity of the proceedings.

Performances are at 1089 N. Oxford Ave., Wednesdays through Saturdays at 8 p.m., Sundays at 3 p.m., through March 26. Tickets: $12-$15; (213) 466-2916.

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