“Nothing is funnier than unhappiness”

Patrice Johnson Chevannes and Joe Grifasi in the Irish Repertory Theatre’s 2023 production of Endgame. Photo: Carol Rosegg.

A few days ago I mused very briefly about how audiences and theatre artists in this fraught 21st century might respond to the “absurd” drama of the 20th. Soon we’ll have a chance to see just that. Now in previews and opening next Thursday, February 2, the fine Irish Repertory Theatre will offer Samuel Beckett’s play Endgame in a new production directed by Ciarán O’Reilly and featuring Bill Irwin as Clov, John Douglas Thompson as Hamm, Joe Grifasi as Nagg, and Patrice Johnson Chevannes as Nell. Both Irwin and Grisafi are old hands at Beckett, especially Endgame, and this promises to be a notable revival in several ways. Endgame runs through March 12; more information and tickets here. I’ll see you there.

Endgame, generally considered to be Beckett’s most daunting play and his own favorite among his dramatic works, premiered in London in 1957. As a special Friday treat, I offer below an appropriate bauble from the past. A few months after Beckett’s 1989 death, the BBC aired “A Wake for Sam,” a short program in which the playwright’s comrade and enthusiast Harold Pinter shared his memories of Beckett and closed with a powerful reading of the final pages of The Unnamable, published in 1958, just a year after Endgame‘s premiere. It was first televised on February 8, 1990. Pinter’s performance is curiously akin to Beckett’s 1972 play Not I (you can see Billie Whitelaw’s performance of that play and description of her own memories of Beckett here), so fasten your seat belt.