Sunday, November 9, 2014

James Joyce and Samuel Beckett Portrayed in OUT OF THEIR MINDS

L-R: Tony Greenleaf, Roxann Kraemer, Enka Salazar, and Greg Horton in OUT OF THEIR MINDS.  Photo by Jonathan Slaff.
If (like me) you are a fan of James Joyce and/or Samuel Beckett, then Out of Their Minds by David Willinger, currently premiering at New Media Repertory Company on East 80th Street on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, is definitely not to be missed.  This is a wonderful play, sharply written and cleverly evocative of much of Beckett’s future work (ranging from Waiting for Godot to Footfalls and Endgame), and beautifully performed by four very talented actors.

The entire play takes place in the Joyce home in Paris in the 1920s and 1930s where James Joyce (brilliantly brought to life by Tony Greenleaf) is gradually going blind, while enjoying a modicum of success from the publication of Ulysses, and struggling to write Finnegan’s Wake.  He shares his home with his wife Nora (effectively played by Roxann Kraemer as the sanest member of the household) and his highly neurotic and possibly schizophrenic daughter Lucia (Erika Salazar).  They are joined early on by Samuel Beckett (whose awe of Joyce and personal insecurities are deftly captured in his portrayal by Greg Horton), who arrives at the Joyce home to serve as Joyce’s secretary and all around gofer.

The play is presented as a “tragic tale of thwarted love” between Beckett and Lucia and in a way it is that but it is really very much more: it is also a depiction of the dysfunction of the Joyce household, the extreme narcissism and self-centeredness that affected all of its members to the point of insanity, and the very mundane events which provided the raw material from which some of the greatest literature and theatrical works of the Twentieth Century emerged.  Or, as Lucia expresses it to Beckett:

You’re a genius Mr. Beckett.  You shall revolutionize the entire world theatre.  You shall enshrine a brand-new quality as the chief of all aesthetic virtues in the modern theatre – a uniquely Irish virtue – Boredom!  Boredom revealing and boredom transcendent.  Boredom that reveals us to ourselves.  And in it we glimpse our paltry dignity.  Our pathetic dignity.  You shall!”

The play is only running through November 16.  Try not to miss it.

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