What in Godot's Name?

Is doing Beckett by the book better than taking liberties with the famously controlling writer's texts?

PUS also takes liberties (again, with the Estate's permission) in turning the Kafka-esque radio drama Rough for Radio II into theater. The piece, in which two bureaucrats interrogate a man for reasons neither he nor the audience ever discovers, unfolds before our eyes as a shadow play with four actors performing in backlit silhouette behind a white scrim. Though the staging conceit is initially novel, it soon becomes dull. Conceived for the aural medium of radio, Rough provokes the imagination with its aggressive sound effects ("Swish of a bull's pizzle"; "thump with ruler," etc.). But adding a visual dimension to these effects makes them too literal and, as a result, less frightening and disorienting.

Rough for Radio II, originally a radio drama, is performed entirely in silhouette.
Scott Baker
Rough for Radio II, originally a radio drama, is performed entirely in silhouette.

Details

Through May 20, tickets are $10-20; call 585-1221 or visit www.pusworks.org.
975 Howard, 975 Howard St. (between 5th and 6th), S.F.

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If the experience of watching Sam I Am teaches us anything about theater, it's how little control an author really has over his work. In general, this is a good thing. With her fallout shelter aesthetics, Akalaitis made Godot meaningful for a post-nuclear age. And the world became a poorer place, I believe, when Beckett and his heavies stopped Ingmar Bergman from producing a film version of Godot. Then again, unflinching accuracy is essential to the performance of Beckett's plays. Each pause is loaded. There's meaning in the actor's every breath. To gloss over these elements is, in a way, a greater kind of heresy than creating a radical but possibly ingenious reinterpretation of the author's work. With Sam I Am, PUS demonstrates great respect for Beckett but, paradoxically, perhaps not quite enough.

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