The Internet Theater Magazine of Reviews, Features, Annotated Listings


SEARCH CurtainUp



NEWS (Etcetera)



Los Angeles






Free Updates
NYC Weather
A CurtainUp Review
...and then you go on
An Anthology of the Works of Samuel Beckett

Second Thoughts on This Show's NY Production
N.B.: The credit box below has been updated for NY production.

Elyse Sommer originally reviewed this show summer before last in the Berkshires. Since the current production is virtually identical to the earlier one, for most purposes, that review remains valid. (The review must be a good one; after all, it quotes me extensively and authoritatively.)

The only real difference seems to be in the venue, and even the seating in the main theater at Here has been reconfigured to produce an open thrust stage. This arrangement is particularly effective for the approach director Peter Wallace has adopted for Bob Jaffe. Alone onstage working his way through excerpts from the dozen Beckett plays (plus a poem) Jaffe has cobbled together, he arrests our attention by speaking directly to individual audience members as his unsure heart speaks its mind. Still, Jaffe's most impressive moments are to be found in longer monologues that he delivers breathlessly and frenetically: especially an early one from Watt that recalls R. D. Lang's Knots and the Act I closer, from Waiting for Godot. (Yes, the credit box is correct when it says there is an intermission, and equally correct, it does last for 60 seconds.)

Elyse's comparison of Jaffe's work to that of Bill Irwin (whose performance in Texts for Nothing I had recently reviewed) is a good one, and the distinctions are worth noting. While Irwin specializes in physical comedy, Jaffe's forté is in the subtle, loving way he articulates Beckett's language. And then there are his gray-blue eyes which, contrasted against the grays and browns of his costume, seem to give expression to every nuance of his character's soul.

Inevitably, one is drawn to the question of whether this hour-plus encounter with Jaffe's manufactured character is as worthwhile as time spent with the individual characters Beckett originally created. I suppose the answer has to be "no," but if nothing else it makes one eager for a re-visit with them. If, as one can assume, there should be a singular vision derived from Beckett's body of work, this comes reasonably close to depicting it. I have my usual crankiness about one-man shows, but this one, thankfully, doesn't overstay its welcome: Jaffe makes his mark, gathers his belongings and then he goes on. ---Les Gutman

---Original Berkshire Review Follows---
If I could begin all over again, knowing what I know now, the results would always be the same.

. . . I'm afraid to go on because to go on is to find me. . . to go on is to lose me and begin again

Bob Jaffe
Bob Jaffe
Unlike Shakespeare whose work is subject to no restraints on the unceasing flood of interpretations, reinterpretations and deconstructions of his work, Samuel Beckett's texts are subject to the rigorous standards of those administering his estate. Thus, as Les Gutman explained in his review of the past season's Off-Broadway production of another Beckett solo piece, Bill Irwin's Texts for Nothing (see link below), "any production of the work of Samuel Beckett inescapably brings to mind the image of the playwright's emaciated hands reaching out of the grave, primed to choke anyone who dares to alter his work."

For . . . and then you go on, which opens the Berkshire Theatre Festival's 2001 season at its smaller Unicorn Theater, Bob Jaffe has, like Bill Irwin, adapted Beckett material for a tour de force solo performance piece. Like Irwin, Jaffe succeeded in negotiating approval from the Beckett estate and Les Gutman's image of "Beckett looking down on the result from whatever existential firmament he now inhabits, grinning broadly" applies to this slightly longer performance piece. Its title and Beckettian spirit of coexisting optimism and despair come from the final words of an early novel, The Unnameable, one of the dozen sources for Jaffe's anthology: "I can't go on, I'll go on."

Mr. Jaffe, whose career encompasses directing and stage management as well as acting, is not quite as natural a clown as Bill Irwin and his piece, while more wide ranging in its sources, is not as remarkably physical as Texts for Nothing. That said, his performance is potent enough to make for an absorbing eighty minutes that requires no prior knowledge of the anthologized works to comprehend Beckett's link to such classic comedians as Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton. The tramp-like bowler hat, the bits of business, the shifting facial expressions are all there. So are the underlying screams of despair -- like the screams of a dying cancer patient that Beckett once described to Harold Pinter as "the only kind of form my work takes."

Since Beckett's work is unified by an overriding schematic of seesawing between petty routines and the grander concerns for going on, the author's fans will see links even to plays not included in the anthology. Thus Jaffe's tramp-like narrator will bring to mind not just Gogo and Didi from Waiting For Godot, but also Winnie, who spends all of Happy Days (not listed in the source list) embedded in a mound of earth yet goes through all sorts of little routines to get her through the day. Jaffe's "going on" goings on include silent bits (e.g. folding up his sock to clean the spaces between his toes and a handkerchief to clean his navel) as well as jokes about wrapping his beggar's self in newspapers on which "even farts make no impression" (a detailed summing up of his scatological excesses lead him to drolly observe "extraordinary how mathematics help you to know yourself").

Jeremy Woodward's simple scenic design -- a rectangular assemblage of logs in the center of a circular platform, and an upstage walkway with a single seat, nicely captures the blend of darkness and comedy (most effectively supported by Holly Ratafia's lighting). There's no apparent reason for those logs, except as a place for Jaffe to sit, to stand, to put his belongings. Yet, those logs struck me as a subtle metaphor for lives, which could any minute go up in flames as civilization becomes uninhabitable and the narrator unable or unwilling to go on.

This funny and haunting opening salvo for the Berkshire Theatre Festival 2001 season is not your easy to watch (and forget) summer stock fare -- but if you pay attention, you'll be amused as well as saddened. If you find yourself occasionally confused and ready to give it up, bear in mind that after the narrator advises "Give Up " he declares: "I shall go on as I've always done, not knowing what I do or who I am or where I am -- or if I am."

Consumer note: All seats in the BTF's comfortable smaller theater, the Unicorn, have excellent sight lines.

Texts for Nothing
Happy Days
Eh Joe
Krapp's Last Tape
Waiting For Godot
Complete Lost Works of Samuel Beckett

...and then you go on
An Anthology of the Works of Samuel Beckett
Adapted and performed by Bob Jaffe from a dozen Beckett texts
Directed by Peter Wallace

Set Design: Jeremy Woodward
Costume Design: Marilyn Salvatore
Lighting Design: Holly Ratafia
Running Time: 80 minutes with one 60 second intermission
Here Arts Center, 145 Avenue of the Americas (@Dominick)
Telephone (212) 647-0202
Opens April 29, 2002, closes May 19, 2002
MON, WED - SAT @8:30, SUN @4; $20
Original production reviewed by Elyse Sommer based on May 25, 2001 performance, NY production re-reviewed by Les Gutman based on April 25, 2002 performance
Metaphors Dictionary Cover
6,500 Comparative Phrases including 800 Shakespearean Metaphors by CurtainUp's editor.
Click image to buy.
Go here for details and larger image.

The Broadway Theatre Archive


©Copyright 2002, Elyse Sommer, CurtainUp.
Information from this site may not be reproduced in print or online without specific permission from