All But Gone
ALL BUT GONE – A BECKETT RHAPSODY by Samuel Beckett (Canadian Stage/Necessary Angel). At Berkeley Street Theatre (26 Berkeley). Runs to November 6. $39-$69. 416-368-3110, canadianstage.com. See listing. Rating: NNN
Director Jennifer Tarver remounts three of the four plays from her 2012 Beckett medley, Beckett: Feck It!, and again intersperses them with contemporary music. The differences: Tarver substitutes Act Without Words I in place of Come And Go, and the three returning plays – Act Without Words II, Play and Ohio Impromptu – get updated treatments and new casting.
The musical selections are also different, featuring three dark and meditative pieces by Finnish composer Kaija Saariaho and one by Ireland’s Garrett Sholdice.
The operatic interludes, though haunting and well sung by returning vocalist Shannon Mercer and new addition Krisztina Szabó, don’t really add much depth to the short plays, which could just as easily stand on their own. The neither-here-nor-there frame aside, the plays are faithfully rendered, well executed and explore different aspects of two recurring character types – the clownish tramp and the wistful disembodied ghost.
Paul Fauteux combines clownish inventiveness with crushing hopelessness in Act Without Words I, where his character is tormented by an invisible power in the sky that dangles items in front of him and frustrates his plans at every turn.
In Act Without Words II, he and Jonathon Young play characters confined to two giant bags who get prodded to life by a long pole. Once wakened, each displays a different habitual daily routine. Fauteux’s regimen of dressing and eating is concertedly slow, sloppy and unsteady, while Young scores the biggest laughs of the evening with his neurotic character’s obsessive and precise tics.
Play, the best known and longest of the four, marks the transition from earlier Godot-inspired sketches to the later “ghost plays,” which brooded on memory, loss and nostalgia. Here, three ethereal characters caught in a love triangle trapped inside giant urns are compelled to frantically babble whenever an unseen interlocutor turns a spotlight on one of them. Young, Mercer and Szabó are great, getting laughs machine-gunning through the intentionally banal lines, while Fauteux operating the spotlight from the front row provides an intriguing touch.
In Ohio Impromptu, Fauteux plays Young’s doppelgänger, who silently listens to his double read from a sad autobiographical text. The piece culminates with a subtle bit of coordinated movement that really makes the meta themes resonate and serves as a powerful conclusion to another solid compilation.