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THEATER REVIEW : Cast Shifts Continue 'Endgame's' Power

June 22, 1995|LAURIE WINER | TIMES THEATER CRITIC

The Matrix Theatre has a policy of mixing and matching its casts, as it does in its smart new production of Samuel Beckett's "Endgame."

In a performance seen Friday night, Robin Gammell played the lord of the manor, Hamm, as a chatty wisecracker. He's less grandiose than the other Hamm--Charles Hallahan--who fills the stage with puffed-up nobility.

Consequently, the play's focus shifted a bit, particularly to Allan Arbus' Nagg, Hamm's crotchety, much abused dad. Hamm promises Nagg a sugarplum if he will listen to an interminable story. Arbus was very funny as he pretended to listen, poised halfway between impatience and despair, fighting the tedious certainty that the sugarplum would never materialize. This is a playlet in itself.

Under Andrew Robinson's direction, Cotter Smith's Clov has the same physical tics as when Gregory Itzin plays him, but Smith's Clov is a bit more of a lost soul. As the old mother who longs for yesterday, Claudette Sutherland's Nell is unsentimentally sad.

The cast is reshuffled nightly, but this is a deck with a lot of strong cards. It's hard to imagine a bad hand.

* "Endgame," Matrix Theatre, 7657 Melrose Blvd., Thur.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m. Ends July 2. $19. (213) 852-1445. Running time: 1 hour, 40 minutes.

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