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New York City Theater

"Krapp’s Last Tape"
Brooklyn Academy of Music

As the lights go up, we find him sitting at a table. Time goes by – a minute, two minutes, before he finally rouses himself. This is the eponymous Krapp of “Krapp’s Last Tape,” embodied by John Hurt. At the Brooklyn Academy of Music, the actor burrows to the depths in a performance filled with regret and self-pity. Under Michael Colgan’s austere direction, the production from the Gate Theater of Dublin, is unfussy, interior and poignant.

In Samuel Beckett’s absurdist 1958 play, Krapp, 69, listens to a tape he made 30 years ago. It was the time of his mother’s death as well as of a significant interlude with a one-time lover. Both events are part of a “memorable equinox” when he suddenly saw what his life was like and would become.

The interlude was an afternoon spent with a nameless woman in a punt, “sun blazing down, bit of a breeze, water nice and lovely.” The failed, lonely writer that he has become cannot forget that moment of a lived life, certainly in contrast to a man now addicted to bananas and booze.

The short (one hour) evening consists almost entirely of Krapp at his table, with occasional moves offstage to pour himself a drink or fetch the ledger in which he’s written a description of the tapes he’s made over the years on his birthday. As such, the mood is elegiac and ethereal, a look into someone’s soul.

Hurt, looking much like the author himself, is a slight figure, grizzled and introverted. When he speaks, it’s with weary resignation at the retreating “chance of happiness,” which he says he wouldn’t want back. Enfolding the tape recorder as if protecting it from time, when Hurt gets to the tape’s final “Never knew such silence; the earth might be uninhabited,” the spheres turn and we glimpse mortality. The tape is finished, and so is Krapp.

-- David A. Rosenberg
Dec. 6, 2011

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