Alvin Epstein, an actor and director whose stage career frequently explored the work of playwright Samuel Beckett, died December 10 at the age of 93. His death, following complications with pneumonia, was confirmed to the New York Times by his cousin Rachel Bratt.
Born May 14, 1925, in the Bronx, Mr. Epstein studied at the High School of Music and Art and Queens College before serving in World War II. While stationed in Germany, he carried his passion for theatre with him, literally, keeping books in tow.
After a brief stint studying dance in New York with Martha Graham and mime in Paris, Mr. Epstein returned to New York, where his early theatre credits included appearing alongside mime artist Marcel Marceau and as the Fool in Orson Welles’ 1956 production of King Lear.
Later that year, he took on the loquacious role of Lucky in the Broadway premiere of Beckett’s Waiting for Godot, beginning his longtime relationship (from afar—the two had never met) with the playwright. He would go on to play the show’s Estragon at the American Repertory Theater in Cambridge, Massachusetts—a theatre that served as a frequent home for the artist.
Mr. Epstein was also revered for his performances in various incarnations of Beckett’s Endgame, including as Clov in the American premiere in 1958. He would go on to play the other two male roles in subsequent productions—most recently, Nagg in the Brooklyn Academy of Music production opposite Elaine Stritch and John Turturro.
His additional credits on Broadway included the musicals No Strings and 3 Penny Opera, as well as Postmark Zero, and A Place Without Doors. Outside of New York, he was a founding member of the Yale Repertory Theater and held a brief term as Artistic Director at the Guthrie Theater.
He is survived by his sister, Sandra Epstein, and his stepsister, Claire Stein.