There’s no denying the drama-nerd thrill of seeing Rick Cluchey in Samuel Beckett’s Krapp’s Last Tape. Cluchey first performed the one-man one-act in 1977, under the direction of Beckett himself. He could completely stink up this Shattered Globe Theatre presentation and still impart a sacramental resonance to the evening, simply by virtue of his connection to the Great Man.
But he sure doesn’t stink it up. Krapp is a cranky, disheveled, probably alcoholic old reprobate—a latter-day Ebenezer Scrooge, whose night of reckoning has come and gone without redemption. He keeps an audio diary, speaking entries into a vintage reel-to-reel machine. We watch him sit under a single lightbulb in an otherwise dark room and listen to a tape he made 30 years earlier, the one that explains how he came to be an old reprobate alone in a dark room. I’ve seen a few fine actors play Krapp, and none had the physical precision, the intimacy, rage, and comic playfulness Cluchey displays here.
What’s more, he’s grown into the role in uncanny ways. The voice on the tape Krapp listens to is Cluchey’s own, from a recording made for the 1977 production—which is to say that at 79, looking for all the world like mad Ezra Pound, Cluchey is hearing his younger self talking. Exactly like Krapp.
After Krapp comes Sam and Rick, a “conversation” during which Cluchey discusses Beckett—and his own astonishing past—with a changing roster of interlocutors. The fact that they bothered to title the thing suggests a certain formality, maybe even scripted elements. But no: on the night I attended, Sam and Rick offered an amiable but woolly exchange, sometimes so casual that points were lost and inside jokes stayed inside. This part is strictly for the drama nerds.