The Woodstock Players are now an established force in the Hudson Valley with a reputation for producing innovative drama. This month they are bringing a production of Beckett’s Endgame to The Byrdcliffe Theater in Woodstock for six performances and to Saugerties Performing Arts Factory (SPAF) in Saugerties for one performance.
Second only to Waiting for Godot, Samuel Beckett’s one-act play, Endgame, is the most frequently performed of his works. Hudson Valley theatergoers — and Beckett enthusiasts and theatergoers from wider afield — will have a new opportunity to see this modern classic in a humorous, faithful version by The Woodstock Players. Their production features Carey Harrison and Mik Horowitz as Hamm and his servant, Clov, and David Smilow and Sara Chodoff as Hamm’s parents, Nagg and Nell. The director, Andrea Cunliffe, is a longtime student and servant of Beckett’s plays, and brings to Endgame a lifetime of theatrical experience, much of it focused on Beckett’s works. Audiences can expect both the devoted attention to the text and its copious directions that the author himself notoriously demanded, and the kind of spirited wit and delivery that local theatergoers have come to expect from Mik Horowitz, and more recently from Carey Harrison, seen in his own play, Magus, and in David Mamet’s American Buffalo, both Woodstock Players productions. Their Endgame will be opening Friday September 7 at The Byrdcliffe Theater, playing that weekend and the following weekend at 8 on Friday and Saturday and at 5 on Sunday, before moving to Saugerties’ new SPAF performing space for one night only, on Friday September 21st. at 8 PM.
Endgame was written ten years after Waiting For Godot, a play which took five years to reach the stage and, when it did, startled audiences with its mixture of black humor and cosmic despair. Like Godot, Endgame was written in French, a language Beckett found even more expressive than his native English, and one that he had studied at Trinity College in his native city of Dublin and in which he acquired fluency from decades of residence in Paris. Before its debut in Paris, Waiting For Godot was first performed in London — in French! It’s hard to imagine a play premiering in the UK in French now. Indeed, when Beckett translated the play himself and it reached the English-speaking stage in English, it might just as well have been in French for all the baffled audiences made of it. It wasn’t until a performance of Waiting For Godot at San Quentin prison that the play found an audience of inmates who understood the play perfectly: a tale of human beings trapped in a repetitive cycle of day after identical day, waiting for a release that never comes. By the time Beckett wrote Endgame, also in French and then in the author’s own translation, Waiting For Godot was finding a wider following.
Endgame takes place in a different landscape from the bleak terrain of Godot. Now Beckett’s characters have withdrawn into a refuge, in order to survive. The world around Beckett had changed since 1947, and the despair that many felt when contemplating the human condition after the most educated nation on earth has conceived of the death camps, and brought them into reality, gave way to the threat of nuclear war: a threat not just of terminal boredom and frustration, as in Godot, but of extinction. The busy construction of nuclear shelters appears to have inspired Samuel Beckett to speculate about the fate of those who survived in such a shelter, as their supplies ran out, and the world outside the shelter offered no hope of renewed life.
The cast of characters in Endgame revisits two of the figures in Waiting For Godot, the landowner Pozzo and his slave Lucky. In Endgame these representative types are the chief characters, Hamm and Clov: they are the master and servant who have retreated into a shelter but find themselves cornered there. Hence the title: it’s the endgame, as in the conclusion of a game of chess. There are few moves left.
Like Pozzo and Lucky in Godot, Hamm and Clov are reminiscent of Irish history: the Anglo-Irish master and his Irish servant. They evoke, too, every master and servant, locked into co-dependency, struggling to escape. Will Clov make good his longing to leave the refuge, even at the cost of his life? On this tension the play suspends cadenzas of Beckettian wit and acknowledgement of our common fate: ‘The end is in the beginning and yet we go on,’ says Hamm. It’s Beckett’s central motif. Doomed to live, fated to die, unable to cease — what’s left for us but to laugh at our own enslavement? Happily for Beckett’s audiences, our majestic author finds humor in us and for us at every turn, as he holds up a mirror to our deepest selves — to the human condition itself.
The Byrdcliffe Theater is two miles uphill from the village of Woodstock in the historic Byrdcliffe Artists’ Colony. For directions to the Byrdcliffe Theater, search maps for 380 Upper Byrdcliffe Rd, Woodstock, NY 12498
Show runs from September 7 – 16, Fridays and Saturdays at 8 PM Sundays at 5 PM at The Byrdcliffe Theater. And on September 21 at 8 PM at Saugerties Performing Arts Factory (SPAF), 169 Ulster Ave (Rte. 212) in Saugerties. Sunday performances end with a Q & A with the director and actors.
The tickets for Endgame are $15, one price for all – cash or checks only at the door please. This production is not suitable for children under 14.
For reservations, call 845.901.2893 or contact the Woodstock Players via their website:
rehearsal photos courtesy, The Woodstock Players