Nobel-prize winning playwright Samuel Beckett is not a household name, known mainly for the absurdist Waiting for Godot. Bill Irwin makes an impassioned case for why Beckett’s star is rising and will be as well known as Shakespeare in the future in his marvelous (almost) one-man show On Beckett.
Irwin, known by many as a clown extraordinaire, showcases an encyclopedic knowledge of Beckett and his work as uses this singular voice that just “won’t go away” to examine the depth of Beckett’s works while infusing the writings with a humanity that begs to be heard. Irwin brings an astounding knowledge of Beckett and his works to the stage, performing excerpts from selected pieces from Texts for Nothing, Watt, Endgame, and The Unnamable in glorious performances that reflect both the beauty of the language as well as all Irwin’s skills in physicality, creating fully realized characters in short bursts.
In all this rich exploration of language, it is his deep understanding of Beckett’s humanity that shines through.
The climax of this taut 89-minute show is a rumination on Godot. Irwin uses his experiences in performing the play multiple times and delivers an impassioned speech on the play’s performance and meaning, going from the American vs. English argument on how to pronounce the name in the title, to the soul of the play’s famous “Lucky speech.” He even screens a short silent clip of his performance of Lucky on Broadway with Steve Martin, Robin Williams, and F. Murray Abraham to highlight the tragedy of the play.
Irwin is served will by a stark scenic design by Charlie Corcoran and Michael Gottlieb’s beautiful lighting design that helps to both frame and highlight the characters he creates on stage. He was also ably assisted in the Godot section by La Ballona student Benjamin Taylor in the role of Boy – that’s the ‘almost’. The message Irwin leaves you with in this masterclass of a work is Beckett’s place in the canon of 20th-century literature and how we all should pay more attention to this iconoclast of the theatre world.
On Beckett, now at the Kirk Douglas Theatre through Oct. 27, 2019. Tues.-Fri. 8 pm, Sat. 2 and 8 pm, Sun. 1 and 6:30 pm.
For more information: www.centertheatregroup.org