"Nothing is funnier than unhappiness," says a character in Samuel Beckett's "Endgame," and "Why this farce, day after day?" becomes a refrain in the enigmatic dialogue.
These are signs of the humor glinting in the darkness of this strange and wonderful play, in which four archetypal characters keep playing their empty social roles even though Earth has been decimated and humankind's time is running out. Director Kristina Lloyd sees the fun to be had with the material and, with an exceptional team of actors and designers, has turned it into an absurdist comic ballet. Their staging is a Gryphon Entertainment guest production at the Odyssey Theatre.
Like the more famous "Waiting for Godot" (first performed in 1953), "Endgame" (1957) renders life as a clown show. In Lloyd's staging, the tone is established right away as a servant named Clov (Zachary Quinto) falls into an antic dance with a stepladder he's hauling around. He keeps losing track of the ladder, which causes him to gasp and spin around, looking. Having located it again, he marches over -- stiff-legged and on tiptoe, like a Frankenstein Baryshnikov -- to waltz it into position for his next task.
Clov works in a once-elegant home, its plastered walls crumbling away to reveal bare brick underneath. The floor buckles crazily upward, while the walls plunge down. Designer Theodore Michael Dolas completes the picture with harsh, unforgiving light that magnifies the performers' movements into giant shadows on the walls.