Seattle is in the midst of a Samuel Beckett festival. On August 29, Sandbox Radio opened a weekend run of Words and Music paired with All that Fall at West of Lenin in Fremont. Leslie Law and Richard Ziman, who produce, direct, and act in this show have crafted a delightful evening of Beckett that will spur you to catch more of the offerings in the festival. Next Monday, Oct 13, for one night only, an encore performance will take place at ACT Theatre.
Words and Music has just three characters and limited sound effects. There does not seem to be an specific setting. Kurt Beattie plays Words (also called Joe) and Terry Edward Moore is Music (also called Bob). Croak (Seanjohn Walsh) has authority over Words and Music. Croak provides themes—like “Love,” “Old,” and “Dog”—then Words attempts to say something about it. Words, before Croak arrived was expounding on “Sloth” and it was “the most powerful emotion.” Croak wants to hear about “Love” and Words uses the same words, or nearly so, as he used for “Sloth.” Then Music responds only by playing the cello, which enchants Croak and infuriates Words.
The whole play can be listened to as a movement of music and cycles of themes with variations. Everyone did a wonderful job in their performances. It was particularly surprising to see the gestures and even costumes employed for these roles though they were being presented as being prepared for broadcast over the radio.
After the intermission, Sandbox Radio offered All that Fall, Beckett’s first radio drama which premiered in 1957 on the BBC’s Third Programme. For this play, Beckett returned to writing in English (rather than French which had become his preference) and to a specific locale in Ireland with references to people and locations he knew growing up. Also, significantly, it is his first play to feature a woman protagonist.
Mrs. Maddy Rooney (Marianne Owen) walks to the Boghill train station to surprise her husband when he arrives on the 12:30 train. It’s his birthday. She’s weighed down by age, physical and mental suffering, and ‘childlessness.’ Owen, through tone, posture, voice, and attitude nails Maddy’s masochistic and suffering view on life. The phrase she used also sums up Beckett’s recurring motif: “How can I go on? I cannot.” Yet, she does go on—pulled and dragged forward by life. Oh, the burdens she must bear.
Maddy encounters three men on her walk who are involved with transportation machines which are either faltering, broken, or delayed. The sound effects team led by Evan Mosher expertly provides the audio scenery for this trek. The first man she meets is a dung carter (Christy, played by Seanjohn Walsh) who offers to sell her dung. Maddy has little need for dung, but does suggest he find a place on top of his heap to ride rather than walking beside the cart.
She next encounters Mr. Tyler (Shawn Belyea) who is riding by on a bike with a flat rear tire. Maddy rebuffs Mr. Tyler’s repeated attempts to offer his arm to ease her burden, eventually shooing him away and insisting he stop “molesting” her.
Mr. Slocum (Terry Edward Moore) drives by in his car on the way to the races and offers her a ride to the station which she accepts. Maddy hints that she and Mr. Slocum once felt a mutual attraction. There is a bit of funny business as he helps her climb into the car, and then it has trouble starting. Eventually it gets back into gear and they proceed to the station.
At the station the train is delayed, and Maddy’s desire to understand its cause is the main tension for the remainder of the play. Eventually the train arrives and Maddy finds her husband Dan (Richard Ziman) and they turn around to walk back to their house. Dan is blind and walks with a cane, so this was more great fodder for the superb sound effects crew. And, with much questioning from Maddy, Ron reveals the reason for the delay in the last line of the play.
Though this is radio drama and actors stand before mikes reading the script, the actors gesture and move to get the feeling of the lines into their voices. It’s quite fun.
More information about the Seattle Beckett Festival can be found at: www.seattlebeckettfest.org. The Beckett Festival spans 5 months and involves 15 local theatres and colleges, presenting well-known plays like Endgame and Waiting for Godot as well as many of his short plays and radio dramas.
Sandbox Radio LIVE: Beckett on the Radio! Directed and Produced by Leslie Law and Richard Ziman. Runtime: 2 hours. Special Note: these performances are not being recorded for later podcasts. Bullitt Caberet at ACT Theatre, 700 Union St., Downtown, One Night Only-Monday, October 13 at 8 PM. Tickets at acttheatre.org/Tickets/OnStage/