The Alexander Kasser Theater is home to one of the many stages worldwide that was chosen to showcase Samuel Beckett’s one-act play, “Krapp’s Last Tape.” The show’s brevity is not the only thing that strays from what an audience would expect. Instead, this production is unique because it features only one actor.
In last weekend’s performance, that actor was the king of avant-garde theater himself: Robert Wilson.
Wilson has collaborated with artists from Lou Reed to Lady Gaga, which says more about his style than words ever could.
“Krapp’s Last Tape” is about 69-year-old Krapp, who records audio diaries every year on his birthday. In the play, he listens to a tape from his 39th birthday and then records a new one.
Through Krapp’s retrospection, audience members are forced to reflect on their own hopes and desires, as well as revisit their lost loves and regrets. A simple concept paired with a poignant message leaves a lot of room for creativity, which Wilson masterfully exhibits in his visuals.
In addition, Wilson’s use of lighting and set design was far from disappointing. Krapp’s office was presented entirely in grayscale. Rain poured and lighting struck over the set through a stunning light show enhanced by the monochromatic backdrop. The set pieces were arranged so evenly that it would maintain perfect symmetry if folded in half.
In contrast to this perfectly arranged space was the disheveled man inside of it. The wardrobe and makeup were my favorite features of this play. Minimalist design is used in an unconventional way as well.
In Beckett’s original script, Krapp’s character is dressed sloppily, which leads the audience to make assumptions about his character before hearing him speak. Wilson’s rendition of Krapp was dressed sharply, with an exposed pair of bright red socks — a subtle way of hinting at his character. His red-lined lips and eyes against his painted white face allowed for the same dramatic and varied facial expressions as a traditional Japanese Noh mask. The makeup allowed for a much stronger performance on Wilson’s behalf.
However, I am still neutral to the performance. Wilson’s depiction of Krapp as a rambling, eccentric old man was amusing, but there were moments where he would drag out a scene by moving slowly. Two of the first 10 minutes of the show were spent removing a banana from his desk.
Later in the show, Wilson added little breaks in Krapp’s character where he is deeply emotional. Those moments of vulnerability really redeemed the show for me.
Overall, Wilson’s reimagining of “Krapp’s Last Tape” is best described as futuristic vaudeville dystopia. This show really gave me a new appreciation for the technical and visual aspects of theater.