Wednesday, August 29, 2007

End Game by Samuel Beckett

I saw "End Game" by Samuel Beckett at Shakespeare Santa Cruz in August 2007. This was my second attempt at watching this play. My first attempt was ten years ago at Berkeley Rep, but my husband insisted on leaving during a break. I am glad I saw it a second time all the way through. I think I understand it now.

What tripped me up about the play was my visceral reaction, the first time, to the image of an elderly mother and father without legs, living inside garbage cans.

I was repulsed the first time.

The second time, I saw the wry humor of the situation. "End Game" in this play refers to the final stages of life. The next stage for the elderly couple was going to be death, so removing their legs and putting them in the garbage can was a humorous, and definitely undignified way, of demonstrating that they are going to die -- cut off at the legs, put out with the garbage -- life is done with them.

The elderly couple is financially supported by, and living with their blind son, Hamm, who is the unhappy protagonist of the play. Hamm abuses, manipulates and controls everyone around him, but never in a way to achieve his purpose. Hamm has a helper/aide/nurse named Clov. When Hamm's helper, Clov, leaves the room, Hamm comments to himself "I think we are getting along now." But they are not getting along because Hamm is unreasonably demanding and Clov wants to get out. Hamm asks Clov to kiss him on two or three occasions, but Clov refuses.

Hamm wants love, friendship, and compassion. Unfortunately, his behavior does not invite this response from those around him. It is a tragedy. It is the end. No one gets what they want in End Game. They all just die.

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