The little old lady in the rocking chair ala Rockabye may have demanded "More!" and gotten it (and then some), but New Yorkers aren't so lucky. The Complete Lost Works of Samuel Beckett as Found in an Envelope (partially burned) in a Dustbin in Paris Labeled "Never to be performed. Never. Ever. EVER! Or I'll Sue! I'LL SUE FROM THE GRAVE!!!" [sic], a hit at the New York International Fringe Festival and strong seller in its NYC return, will close at Present Company's Theatorium Feb. 3. Performances began Jan. 11.
Twice staged in Chicago, Complete Lost Works takes a PDQ Bach style approach to late experimental playwright Samuel Beckett, unearthing "lost" plays by the master that weren't meant to see the light of day but somehow get daylit anyway. Doing the disentombing are co authors Greg Allen, Ben Schneider and Danny Thompson, who also perform the one-acts. Allen is founder and artistic director of the 12 year-old Chicago institution, the NeoFuturists, whose Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind (30 Plays in 60 Minutes) remains among the most off beat, lively and innovative evenings of theatre in the country.
Allen's K., an adaptation of Kafka's The Trial, was a Fringe Fest hit back in 1997. Thompson and Schneider are both allied with Chi town's Theatre Oobleck, Thompson as actor, playwright (Necessity - a "historically inaccurate bio-play of Thomas Edison) and co-founder, Schneider as actor. The NeoFuturists and Theatre Oobleck are presenting the New York mounting Complete Lost Works.
And what are those works? They include Beckett's very first composition (at age 7), Happy Happy Bunny Visits Sad Sad Owl, and the posthumously written Foot Falls Flatly. Also on the bill are Table Talk, Not Me, IF, Come See, Come Saw; and Fragment (oddly found on a balled up piece of paper seemingly written through dictation) [sic].
For the uninitiated, the "real" Beckett changed modern drama with his existential work, Waiting for Godot, and then experimented even further with such works as Endgame and Happy Days. Though he showed a playful — sometimes even clownlike — nature in his works, Beckett didn't like people playing with his works, and threatened to sue directors and theatre companies if they strayed from his stage directions. How did Allen, Schneider and Thompson come upon these seemingly vanished works? "We were in Paris at some time or other," Allen told American Theatre magazine (January 2000), "looking through various dumpsters to see what we would find. And we happened upon this envelope. ...we thought he was an idiot for depriving the world of these works." Allen added that this may not be the last collaboration for the trio. "We're hoping to do The Complete Lost Works of Wendy Wasserstein next year."
The Complete Lost Works of Samuel Beckett plays at The Present Company Theatroium. For tickets ($12) and information call (212) 420 8877.
— By David Lefkowitz
and Christine Ehren