Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Krapp, 39


By Michael Laurence. Directed by George Demas. SoHo Playhouse. Through Apr. 5.

Critics don't just admire Michael Laurence's chutzpah in riffing on Beckett's Krapp's Last Tape with his own ironically self-involved multimedia solo show--they also mostly adore the results, in which Laurence uses journals and answering machine messages, among other personal effects, to create a resonant, and, critics say, quasi-Beckettian hall of mirrors. A+
(Martin Denton) Laurence's smart, funny, wise, and profound riff on/response to Samuel Beckett's Krapp's Last Tape...It's a rich, ripe stimulating work that's as rewarding to ponder afterward as it is to experience.

Variety A
(Sam Thielman) The show--gorgeously directed by George Demas, and mostly composed of the author-performer's journal entries, phone calls and personal correspondence--is simply Laurence sticking a pin into his own self-importance and watching it deflate time and again...Arrogance and self-regard are always a risk in a one-man show; in "Krapp, 39," Laurence flees so quickly to the opposite extreme that his show is a complete surprise--and thus, hilarious. It's the same impulse that propelled Beckett's bleak play, and like his spiritual ancestor, Laurence has produced a priceless artifact.

New Yorker A
Michael Laurence’s well-written and expertly performed solo piece, directed by George Demas, is the actor’s response to Beckett’s “Krapp’s Last Tape,” and its themes of “love, loss, art, death, and bananas"...Laurence creates a funny and lacerating self-portrait that earns its affiliation with the classic that inspired it.

That Sounds Cool A
(Aaron Riccio) Laurence's grant-worthy term for Krapp, 39 is "an autobiographical 'documentary' theater piece," but in truth, it is neither a history nor a premonition, and it is all the stronger for that. Krapp is a sort of shield, in which an actor can visit the deep themes of love and death and, especially, loss. Stripped of that role--"Take the character away from the actor and what does he have?"--and there's a far greater existential dread...and, as Beckett so wisely observed, a certain special comedy, too.

Gothamist A
(John Del Signore) A work of brave and vulnerable beauty that succeeds despite its seemingly off-putting subject matter. That Laurence somehow coaxes the audience to care about and even identify with a floundering New York theater actor speaks volumes about his warmth and charm—which is doubly impressive considering he usually gets cast as the homeless drifter...The well-paced production at Soho Playhouse is speckled with self-deprecating humor and thoughtful considerations on time and aging.

Flavorwire A
(Anne Fenton) Lawrence (sic) uses the concept of Beckett’s famed monologue to reconsider various periods of his own life, and to reflect upon his desires for the future...Lawrence walks a fine line between self-exploration and self-obsession, but he manages to keep his audience interested and engaged. His insights and anecdotes about both Krapp and himself are variously hilarious and devastating, uplifting and sobering. All in all, it’s a great piece of theater.

Time Out NY A
(David Cote) Michael Laurence, possessed of princely good looks and a poet’s tenor, seems no stranger to his mirror, but the writer-performer also knows how to mine the comic underside of artistic self-absorption. His deceptively fatuous Krapp, 39 starts with the actor’s genuine desire to record himself delivering a speech that is played back in Samuel Beckett’s Krapp’s Last Tape...The actor and his shrewd director, George Demas, deftly navigate the pathos and satire in the navel-gazing setup...The result is a moving and wise 70-minute retrospective of a man’s soul, an homage to the self that somehow doesn’t feel selfish.

Theatermania B+
(Andy Propst) Often fascinating...In his efforts to shape his piece, Laurence has assembled a wide range of materials: there are journal entries from previous birthdays dating back 20 years, an unearthed message from an answering machine from his dead mother, and--to enhance the ironic quotient of the piece--phone conversations with his capable director, George Demas...Slowly, the piece turns into a rich and brutally honest examination of a life at mid-point.

New York Post B+
(Frank Scheck) It takes nerve to mine the same territory as Samuel Beckett, but Michael Laurence pulls it off...It is a moving and funny examination of the loss of youth that, while not on a par with Beckett's classic, is far more than a mere homage...What in lesser hands may have come across as yet another autobiographical, self-obsessed monologue - it's not for nothing that he looks up the word "solipsistic" at one point - Laurence makes it work...It's unfortunate that Laurence lacks Beckett's gift of simplicity: Even at 80 minutes, the piece feels too rambling and self-indulgent. But it's more than good enough to make one regret having to wait 30 years for the sequel.

The New York Times B+
(Anita Gates) “Krapp, 39” has a sort of intoxicating fatalism. A 39-year-old actor, inspired by Samuel Beckett’s play “Krapp’s Last Tape,” decides to follow in the title character’s footsteps by recording his thoughts on his own life so far, for a future (staged) reflection. The process does not cheer him up. A+ 14; Variety A 13; New Yorker A 13; That Sounds Cool A 13; Gothamist A 13; Flavorwire A 13; TONY A 13; Theatermania B+ 11; New York Post B+ 11; The New York Times B+ 11; TOTAL: 125/10=12.5 (A/A-)

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