Deep in the bowels of the ACT Theatre Building lies the Eulalie Scandiuzzie Space. Herein, the Central Heating Lab and Sound Theater Company are presenting five short one acts by Samuel Beckett as part of the Seattle Beckett Festival. The company’s notes observe that these plays are relatively obscure works and rarely staged. The quality of the pieces varies wildly from focused takes on Beckett’s grim and incomprehensible world to some meandering drama with shaky acting. Fans of Beckett, opening night had nearly a full house, should find the trip worth it.
Two of the strongest works were the opening mime pieces: Act Without Words I and II. The former was a minimalist play featuring a very talented Ken Michels, a mime determined to survive his absurd, hellish reality. He is alternatively poked, sun-baked and teased like that poor mythic punching bag Tantalus, forever reaching for water that is somehow always just beyond his grasp.
The second mime piece is a hilarious take on two nameless characters attempting to get through some kind of absurd workday from morning rising to bedtime. Both pieces were able to astutely comment on the human condition with the sparest of stage business. Words I was directed by Teresa Thuman and II by Andrew McGinn.
Rough For Theatre I and II come off less successfully. The first of these is particularly grim as John Clark and Jose Amador portray a blind man and cripple who seem to make their sad plight even more unpleasant with their interactions. The actors did not seem quite up to the demands of the absurdist script.
The evening closes with Catastrophe. Here a theater director is consumed with posing an obviously suffering man so he may appear just right in a stage spotlight. His meticulous directions for his assistant make little sense, but he seems to know exactly what he wants from his poor model. The final moments of the piece in a vanishing spotlight are harrowing. Robert Bergin is the director and Ashley Banker is the put upon assistant. Ken Michels is the trembling figure in the spotlight.
Finally, 5 by Beckett will give the audience plenty to reflect upon as they make their way back up to the cool fall night of downtown Seattle. The show runs through November 9 at 700 Union Street, Seattle. Tickets at (206) 292-7676 or www.acttheatre.org.