The International Beckett Circle,
Chicago Reader, September 7, 2001
The Beckett Circle, Fall
Audience members received instructions to wait
at the corner of Pierce and Leavitt, a tree-lined neighborhood
of vintage apartment buildings and elegant turn of the century
homes. By eight o’clock on September 9, a crowd of
about eighty playgoers gathered, very young and very fashionable
with their black leather jackets gleaming in the lamplight.
Members of the company came down the street to explain the
rules; spectators would be led to the performance site in
groups of twenty, and the play would run as many times as
necessary to accommodate the crowd.
The groups walked with their leaders about
a block away to an old apartment with bay windows and made
their way up the stairs and into the living of a flat on
the second story. Most of the furniture had been cleared
away and what remained was draped in white cloth. Bathed
in shadow, a dark figure lay silent in a rocking chair in
the front window. The audience knelt on the floor and lined
the walls within a few feet of the chair. The lights raised
to reveal the actor Katie Taber and the eight-minute monologue
This production, for which the tape recording
was designed and engineered by Mike Frank, contained two
features that, while upsetting initial expectations, ultimately
illuminated the possibilities of the play. The setting added
a layer of street sounds that floated in through the open
windows, thus bringing unpredictable and sometimes rich counterpoints
to the spoken words. The other production twist was that
the actor Katie Taber was young and beautiful, costumed in
a black vintage dress with a hint of red petticoats. Her
appearance allowed spectators to see the memory of wholeness
and happiness that suffuses the elderly character’s
narrative of breakdown and decay. Her body seemed deeply
relaxed, the angles of spine and head worked like brush strokes
to suggest pain, age, and withdrawal. The language ebbed,
rushed, and repeated without ever seeming monotonous or unnatural.
Though the play explores the experience of aging and the
approach of dissolution, the ultimate effect is not depressing.
Memories, characters, and voices fill the room to make a
profound case for how much life can be distilled from the
most diminished human situations.
This company has great faith in Beckett’s
words. In a conversation after the performance, Artistic
Director Joanna Settle explained that a new generation is
being drawn to Beckett because “the language is impeccable.
. . They see something beautiful, satisfying, and pure.” Recalling
her first encounters with Beckett, she said, “I responded
to Beckett. I didn’t have to reach for a response.
It was there, and I thought it would be there for my peers.” Settle
believes that site-specific productions present the plays
in a setting chosen to enhance the audience’s experience
of a particular piece, as opposed to the one-size-fits-all
ambiance of a black box theatre.
- Eileen Seifert -
Chicago Reader, September 7, 2001
What makes Settle’s productions truly
remarkable, however, are not the gimmicks but the performances.
This production, presented by Division 13, succeeds on the
basis of Katie Taber’s exquisite voice. Reading Beckett’s
dry, laconic prose, Taber releases all the play’s freighted
subtext–just the way she pronounces “another” speaks
volumes about her character’s repressed rage, disappointment,
and sexual frustration.
- Jack Helbig -