Tuesday, April 13, 2010


I saw Sameuel Beckett's "Endgame" at Steppenwolf Theatre tonight, after a day of toothache, two hours at the endodontist, and other challenges.

I liked it. It wasn't very entertaining, but it wasn't repulsive either. Repulsive, I think, was the takeaway when I read the play back in college or grad school.

This time, the poetry spoke. Which is what tends to happen when you perform plays out loud. The images get out there, resound in the empty spaces around the audience. You could get all caught up in the rejection of meaning in life and time and Western culture. (God help you if you read the program note on Mad Men and Endgame!) Or you could listen and notice and wonder. In the face of everything, there are still attempts at stories and sugarplums and prayer. There's a faint vision of unattained happiness. The will to power coexists confusedly with a will to save. Of course, it isn't enough: "You're on earth. There's no cure."

When you come out of the show, for a while ordinary conversation sounds like Beckett-speech. I came home, looked at my email, and had to go look up John 20:19-31, last Sunday's Gospel, Jesus and Thomas, for tomorrow's chapel reading.

So I read that story through Beckett speech, or at least saw the story set in the dirty upper room with the garbage cans that house Nagg and Nell and the windows high on the wall. Ham confined to a throne on wheels. Clov in and Clov out, the only activity in the play. The apostles whose preaching and teaching founded Christianity cowering in the dim corner light. Wasteland?

In John there is revelation. Jesus appears, "Peace be with you here," shows Thomas his damaged hands and side, and utters a blessing on the unknown ones "who have not seen and yet believe."

Does it make any more sense than "Endgame"?

"You remain," says Ham at the end.

Remain. Yet.

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