A weary trek for all
but Beckett devotees

"Endgame," presented by the Actors Group at Yellow Brick Studio, 625 Keawe St. Shows continue 7:30 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays and 4 p.m. Sundays through Aug. 29. Tickets are $10. Call 722-6941 or e-mail

The term "endgame" comes from chess and describes a scenario in which one player has such an advantage that the outcome should no longer be in doubt. An endgame should be taken to checkmate quickly, however, because a single wasted or misplayed move could allow the opponent to avoid defeat by achieving a stalemate.

The term can also suggest the approach of a truly inescapable event -- that interpretation is better suited to the Actors Group's production of Samuel Beckett's "Endgame."

TAG is presumably presenting this existentialist piece for the benefit of seasoned Beckett fans who will arrive fully conversant with the playwright's work and its conventions -- absurdity, repetition, meaninglessness. No information about these things is provided in the playbill for the benefit of first-timers, although director Liz Kane mentions in her director's note that scholars have been debating "for nearly 50 years" whether "Endgame" is a comedy, tragedy or farce. Perhaps that's warning enough for those who prefer clarity of plot and characterizations.

Take the setting. It appears to be post-apocalyptic but maybe it isn't. What quickly becomes apparent is that a man named Hamm is the blind, paraplegic lord and tyrant of a bare, bunkerlike room located near an unnamed beach. Hamm bullies his crippled servant/slave Clov, ordering Clov to bring this, fetch that, move his wheelchair over the wall and back, and occasionally to look out the windows to check for signs of life outside.

Clove reports that he sees nothing. Not even any gulls.

Hamm's elderly parents, Nagg and Nell, are kept in adjoining garbage cans on one side of the room. They have no legs and are unable to climb out of the garbage cans. There used to be sawdust in the bottom of the cans, now there is only sand. Is this a statement about the way society treats the elderly, or the set-up for the times that Nagg, looking like a sprightly, bearded wino, pops up in his garbage can like a derelict Santa?

Bill Carr stars as Hamm, the thoroughly unlikable antihero, and quickly succeeds in making death in a radioactive desert seem preferable to life in a bunker with him. Carr's command of the character makes the show worth experiencing for those who find acting technique of interest regardless of context or content. Hate the character, enjoy Carr's skill in creating it. Failing that, this one-act play becomes a very long and slow trek through tedium.

Tim Dyke plays Clov as perhaps a bit brain-damaged, but with a resilience of spirit that enables him to endure Hamm's abuse. Even so, first-timers will be challenged to understand Clov's doglike loyalty. Is he physically unable to leave, or is he a prisoner of his own mind? (Knowledge of French history and several languages is required to decrypt the possible significance of various references in the script.)

Ed Pickard (Nagg) and Laurie Tanoura (Nell) touch the heart as Hamm's parents. Pickard projects a noble dignity as an aging man who must beg for a biscuit and can't get his wife to scratch his back or give him a kiss.

The Actors' Group

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