Monday, February 01, 2010

A Dramatic Disappointment

Theater Review

Hughie/Krapp's Last Tape
Goodman Theatre, Chicago
@@@1/2 for Hughie / @1/2 for Krapp's Last Tape

I have enjoyed being a Goodman Theatre subscriber for several seasons and have seen over 50 plays (including a few musicals) there over the past decade. While I have found much of their work worthwhile--and for a Sunday night subscriber price of $22 per show, quite a good value--looking back I'd have to say that I have been disappointed more often than not.

Although the acting has generally been stellar, the content of the plays being presented has been, to me, largely less than superlative. And having last night gone to the second show of my 2009-10 subscription season (in the Albert, the larger of Goodman's 2 theaters), I would have to say they are 0-for-2. Or perhaps, more precisely 1-for-3, barely.

Back in October, I didn't care all that much for their mounting of the Marx Brothers' Animal Crackers as a stage musical. And while Brian Dennehy in two rare one-acts by legendary authors might sound like a sure thing, it sure wasn't.

Dennehy is a great actor, and nothing he did last night disproved that, but the combination of Hughie (by Eugene O'Neill) and Krapp's Last Tape (by Samuel Beckett) did nothing to enrich or enlighten me, and only Hughie managed to at least entertain.

A 42-minute dialogue between a lifelong gambler and a hotel night clerk (played by Joe Grifasi) who has replaced the recently deceased Hughie, this was a slightly enlarged but not really enhanced version of a play the Goodman staged in the Owen in 2004 with the same actors. Dennehy and Grifasi are both fun to watch, but overall the work feels solid but slight, certainly not special.

But compared with Krapp's Last Tape, which features only Dennehy and a tape recorder, Hughie was spectacular. Although I never have seen nor read Waiting For Godot, it seems wrong for me to lambast a writer as acclaimed as Beckett. But along with me not liking this show, from the comments of those around me as the theater emptied, it seemed no one did. Dennehy plays an old guy who records his thoughts every year on his birthday, except the "play" is largely just him listening back to past recordings. And it opens with Dennehy's character stalking around the stage eating bananas for 20 minutes. So of the 50 minutes that delayed my getting home to watch Grammy highlights--I liked the pairings of GaGa/Elton & Taylor/Stevie--Dennehy only spoke live for less than 10. And that was in an often hard-to-understand Irish brogue.

Long story ending, if you have a subscription, go, but don't expect to love it. If you don't, don't bother. Steppenwolf's American Buffalo, Redtwist's The Pillowman and Profiles' Killer Joe all demand your attention before this Krapp.

No comments: