The Vanguard Tries: Seeing a Theatre USA Production

By: Amelia Rose Zimlich | Managing Editor |

There’s nothing like spending a Thursday night watching a theatrical production that prompts a deep inner reflection.

On various dates in September and October, Theatre USA presented Samuel Beckett’s “Endgame”, a one-act play that grapples with themes such as beauty, humor, death and the meaning of life in a disjointed and chaotic way that somehow still communicates a complex message.

Directed by John Nara, the play follows four characters: Hamm, a blind and paralyzed man, played by Jason Harbison; Clov, Hamm’s servant, played by A.D Lumpkin; Nagg, Hamm’s father, played by Seth Reynolds; and Nell, Hamm’s mother, played by Alissa Dearman.

Each character’s circumstances are similar: they are all in various states of discontentment. Within their responses lie their true nature, conveyed adeptly by each actor. Hamm dominates the dialogue, his underlying powerlessness gradually unveiled by Harbison. Clov dolls out stale, tiresome answers to Hamm’s repetitive questions, his annoyance emphasized by Lumpkin’s acute timing. Nagg appears to be passive, but Reynold’s performance capitalized on his incessant agitation. Nell is wistful but defeated, unable to return to a happier past. She seems to be the only character to express happiness in some form, which Dearman balanced well amongst the gravity of the other characters.

I would argue that the plot of “Endgame” isn’t one to be fully grasped by the end of the production. The obvious confusion of many students exiting the theater was evidence of this. The plot gets the audience to think; its effect is gradual and ongoing. The deeper you reflect, the more questions arise. And yet, you think you might just understand. As Nara writes in the director notes, “The new circumstances of these characters have changed what it means to be human by stripping away the familiar artifices of society. The audience is forced to respond with self-reflection.”

Against the backdrop of our current world, “Endgame” is a complicated commentary on life as a whole and what we make of it. Hamm’s reoccurring line “You’re on Earth, there’s no cure for that!”, paired with the ending of the play, highlights how choices and attitudes can either help or hinder us.

While “Endgame” had its last performance on Oct. 1, Theatre USA is presenting “Love/Sick” in November. Student tickets are $12 and are available at the box office in the Laidlaw Performing Arts Center. For more information, visit the Department of Theater and Dance website.

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