In the latest Department of Theatre and Dance production, “The Lost Ones: Short Plays” translates the idea of the unpredictable marriage between thought and emotion onto the stage through performing seven of Samuel Beckett’s plays.
The infusion of technology and music in this show, which ran in Memorial Auditorium from March 22 to 24, worked in the production’s favor. Many pieces written from the ’60s through the ’80s can feel slightly dated, especially when the directors choose to follow the script very closely. However, a soundtrack full of charming indie ballads, one in particular being a soft, breathy version of Whitney Houston’s “I Wanna Dance With Somebody”, and the addition of live video footage from a handheld camera made watching this show feel very modern.
Modernity was not an issue for the plays themselves. Recurring themes in these shows were not unfamiliar to audiences now and included lost love, regret and depression.
One play that I particularly enjoyed was “Rough for Theatre II.” In it, two men are sitting across from one another while a third is standing on top of a table with his back turned to the audience, centered directly behind them. They begin to discuss his psychiatric state, which led me to believe that they were both sides of the brain working to rationalize the third man’s suicide. The actors’ comedic timing was brilliant. At times, I had to remind myself of the severity of the situation because I was so rapt in the two men’s witty and playful banter. Quick switches from sarcastic to solemn did not feel forced. Instead, they helped emphasize the unpredictability of human emotion.
Others that I was pleased with include “Ohio Impromptu,” “Come and Go,” and “Eh Joe.” In fact, I was so moved that I even read the plays once I got home. To me, these plays made the best use of the makeshift set and were the most successful in holding my attention.
My biggest problem with most of the plays wasn’t the content, but my inability to follow them. The Department of Theatre and Dance made a very risky choice by choosing some of these pieces, as Beckett is the master of out-of-context and seemingly non-sequitur dialogue. That being said, choices such as “Not I,” “Play,” and “Footfalls” really lost me. Fast-paced monologues and unintelligible whispers made these plays feel more like schizophrenic episodes than fluid stories.
Again, Beckett’s shows are tricky to understand as is, and often require supplemental readings to truly get what he’s trying to say. I respect the actors for doing their best to interpret these difficult pieces, but at times I was left unmoved or just plain confused. But of course, like the human psyche, sometimes you just have to accept what is instead of trying to make sense of it all.