“Shall We Go? Yes, Let’s Go.” Three Plays by Samuel Beckett

Samuel Beckett cheers me up. There’s something very therapeutic about his dark, relentless, clear-eyed vision. While other playwrights dance around the truth, he revels in the inevitable: we age, our minds go, the good times fade but regrets last a lifetime. And the older Beckett got, the bleaker his vision became. Waiting for Godot, his first produced play, is a costume drama compared to the three stripped-down works on this program. Eh Joe consists of a man sitting in a chair listening to the voice of a berating dead wife or lover, and in That Time we see the illuminated head of a man bedeviled by three voices, all his own. This show–a companion of sorts to the main-stage production of Waiting for Godot–proves that Beckett was only warming up with that early triumph. Each harsh little nugget on the bill is worth two Godots, and that goes double for this version of Krapp’s Last Tape. Beckett himself directed former San Quentin Penitentiary inmate and protege Rick Cluchey in the play in the 1970s; Cluchey performed it at the Goodman in 1980 and reprises his definitive version here. As Krapp meditates on his long-lost past, Cluchey manages to re-create in full both Beckett’s wicked wit and his unsentimental portrait of a man on the brink of a dusty grave who suddenly realizes all he gave up for his barren if independent existence. Goodman Theatre Studio, 200 S. Columbus, 312-443-3800. Through February 7: Friday-Saturday, 8 PM; Sunday, 2 and 7:30 PM. $10; free (subject to availability) with the purchase of a ticket to the Goodman’s Waiting for Godot. –Jack Helbig

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Rick Cluchey, David Darlow uncredited photos.