“You’re on earth. There’s no cure for that.”
Cast & Personnel
No other writer has more profoundly influenced the course of contemporary drama and dramatic writing than Samuel Beckett. Nearly every year there is a new ‘next Beckett’ but never is the designation really apt for there will never be another Samuel Beckett. From Edward Albee to Harold Pinter to Tom Stoppard to Sarah Kane, Beckett has been cited again and again as the writer that most influenced their work. Beckett changed the game. Virtually none of the plays I have produced would have existed but for him and but for him I sincerely doubt I’d be working in theatre at all. He is our Shakespeare.
Will Eno, commonly regarded to be one of the fresher playwrights today, was asked when Beckett’s plays would become irrelevant. He answered, “When people stop dying.”
And yet Beckett, whose public debut came less than 60 years ago, is among the least produced of contemporary writers. Often relegated to university classes and productions, his work is commonly misunderstood to be heady, tedious, gray, or merely bizarre. Even the most well-intentioned producers often miss the vital comedy in his work.
This is consistent with commonly held misunderstandings about the movement which he inadvertently led, as The Theatre of the Absurd is often regarded as representing an absurd approach to theatre, a series of ‘weird plays,’ rather than a reflection of the post-war philosophy that the human experience is itself absurd.
Endgame, for all the unhappiness the characters experience in their local situation, is in many ways a comedy. Or rather, with the line that Beckett said was the spine of the play, “Nothing is funnier than unhappiness,” it marries comedy and tragedy in a way that no writer before or since has so successfully managed to do.
Beckett loved the geniuses of lowbrow comedy, the vaudevillians. He admired no performer more than he did Buster Keaton or Charlie Chaplin. And his work has no more in common with the nihilism of Nietzsche than it does the hilarious laments of Chekhov’s Yepikhodov, a character we laugh at for all the ways in which he falls down.
With characteristically wicked humor, when asked which of his plays he liked best, Beckett said: “I suppose of all my plays I dislike Endgame the least.” Nodler and Catastrophic like it best, for without it there would be no Catastrophic Theatre. Without Endgamewe would have so little mechanism for laughing at life’s absurdities, and the nothingness which is such a common theme in Beckett’s plays would be that much more grievous.
Jason Nodler will direct a cast of Greg Dean (Hamm), Troy Schulze (Clov), Joel Orr (Nagg) and Mikelle Johnson (Nell). Dean, Schulze and Johnson are Catastrophic company members. Orr is Artistic Director of Houston’s Bobbindoctrin Puppet Theatre.
The most recent Houston production of Beckett’s tragicomic masterwork was produced by Nodler’s Infernal Bridegroom Productions in 1995. It was the second play directed by Nodler and it featured the first of his many collaborations with Greg Dean (Hamm) and Jim Parsons (Clov). Aaron Krohn appeared as Nagg and Catastrophic Associate Director Tamarie Cooper played Nell. The production was the first of IBP’s to be reviewed by the daily paper of record, The Houston Chronicle, and the review ran under the headline “Endgame ends up as Beckett at its best.” The production was followed by IBP productions of Beckett’s Waiting for Godot (also featuring Dean) and Happy Days (with Cooper in the seminal role of Winnie), each directed by Nodler.
When asked to reprise his role in Endgame, Dean remarked, “Splendid. I’ve had 16 more years experience in dying.”
Nodler and Orr previously collaborated on the IBP/Bobbindoctrin co-productions of Maria Irene Fornes’ The Danube and Orr’s original work The Noblest of Drugs.
SAMUEL BECKETT was an Irish avant-garde novelist, playwright, theatre director, and poet, who lived in Paris for most of his adult life and wrote in both English and French. Beckett's plays became the cornerstone of 20th-century theater beginning with ''Waiting for Godot,'' which was first produced in 1953. As the play's two tramps wait for a salvation that never comes, they exchange vaudeville routines and metaphysical musings - and comedy rises to tragedy. Before Beckett there was a naturalistic tradition. After him, scores of playwrights were encouraged to experiment with the underlying meaning of their work as well as with an absurdist style. As the Beckett scholar Ruby Cohn wrote: "After 'Godot,' plots could be minimal; exposition, expendable; characters, contradictory; settings, unlocalized, and dialogue, unpredictable. Blatant farce could jostle tragedy." For his accomplishments in both drama and fiction, the Irish author, who wrote first in English and later in French, received the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1969. At the root of his art was a philosophy of the deepest yet most courageous pessimism, exploring man's relationship with his God… As illustrated by the final words of his novel, "The Unnamable": "You must go on, I can't go on, I'll go on." Or as he later wrote: "Try again. Fail again. Fail better."
In the Media
“Catastrophic Theatre’s stark, unflinching production of Samuel Beckett’s Endgame demonstrates exactly why this company and its artistic director Jason Nodler are so important...
to the city’s cultural life. Catastrophic answers a particular need by producing a kind of theater no one else is doing. For want of a better descriptive, call it the avant-garde. Certainly no other group in town is doing such work this consistently, nor with the commitment and skill that distinguish every moment of Endgame.”
— Everett Evans, Houston Chronicle