Beckett Shorts

Because New York Theatre Workshop’s recently closed Beckett Short’s employed two Flux members, I will not digress on the production, except to say that as this production was my first direct encounter with Baryshnikov, Akalaitis and Glass; I was absolutely grateful to have been there.

However, what I can digress on freely is the plays themselves. Beckett is often praised for his visual genius: the tramps and the tree, the lit mouth in darkness, the mound of earth, the trashcans. And he does certainly excel in compressing whole plays (if not existences) into one stark image that is both a metaphor and the thing itself.

But he also is an absolute master of language, and his power of compression with language is what made me fall in love with him when I was but a wee junior in high school with no idea that he was supposed to be different from the other playwrights.

I was reminded of this in the final piece Eh, Joe?, with the line, “The best’s to come, you said, that last time…Hurrying me into my coat”. The balance of that line, the compression of a whole relationship, the ‘best’ playing off the ‘last’, the ‘come’ playing off the ‘time’, and then a beat and the trivial piece of business of hurrying into her coat putting a bit of human mess on the elegance of that cold line, “The best’s to come, you said, that last time…hurrying me into my coat”; the slow drum beat of the one syllable words, then the rush of the syllables of hurrying trying to escape from them…Later she will repeat the line a little differently, she will have trouble with her buttons; but watching the play at NYTW the first time I heard that line the sharp chill of it ran through me body and I ran it over and over in my head the rest of the day, trying to smooth it down a little.

It is always a wonder when I meet another human being who obsesses so much over the little loves and betrayals of words jostling together in a sentence, like exquisite little party goers hiding and sharing their mysteries.

Something too much of this, but thanks to NYTW for staging this teleplay and giving me that sharp chill. And ah, Baryshnikov!

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