Theater Review: Chicago Court Theatre ends season with Samuel Beckett's 'Endgame'

StoryImage( ‘/Images/Story//Auto-img-11194620962487.jpg’, ‘Photo by Michael Brosilow’, ‘Joe Foust as "Clov" and Allen Gilmore as "Hamm" in Court Theatre's production of 'Endgame'.’);

Samuel Beckett was born in Ireland and attended Portora School and Trinity College. He met James Joyce as a young man and was no doubt influenced by his “stream of consciousness” pattern of writing. Beckett’s first writing, that of the novel, later developed into plays. His most famous Waiting for Godot found an enthusiastic audience. Although labeled by many as a pessimist, he was greatly affected by existentialism and recognized man’s destiny based on his own actions.

Allen Gilmore plays Hamm, and in a conversation following the opening at Court Theatre, he shared his vision of Beckett’s work. “It reflects the beginnings and ends of life with the end often a new start.”

In an interview in Playnotes, June 2005, reflecting on the character of Hamm, he says, “I hope… that we see who he is really beyond the bossy pettiness and the selfishness and the ego and diva quality as a representation of something that is in all of us: desire, a real need to connect with other people.”

Joe Foust as Clov moves across the stage in baby steps, emphasizing the childlike quality so inherent in his character. Maury Cooper is Nagg, and Roslyn Alexander is Nell. We see Hamm’s parents disposed of in trash cans. Is this just another representation of the “nursing home”? Tragically, Beckett died in 1989 in just such a facility.

Christopher Bayes brilliantly directs. Dedicating his work on this production to the memory of his grandmother, Mary Andress, it is evident that Endgame reflects his personal relationships.

When I inquired about the set, Gilmore said Beckett’s directions were simple: a room with two windows, centered with Hamm’s chair. Bayes’ eye for detail fills the space with artifacts and mysterious effects that include the shadow of a huge wheel turning behind the scrim.

Beckett’s work stimulates the thought processes, and it would take pages to write of the lasting impact of a two-hour play.

The Court Theatre, celebrating its 50th year, is at 5535 S. Ellis Ave. in Hyde Park, adjacent to the Smart Museum of Art. Endgame runs through June 26 and tickets may be reserved by calling the box office at (773) 753-4472.

From the June 22-28, 2005, issue

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