By Samuel Beckett
Directed by Peter Brook and Marie-Hélène Estienne
Revered director Peter Brook, returning to the Kennedy Center for the first time since 1973, brings together five short works by playwright Samuel Beckett for his theater collection, Fragments. Brook's pared-down style is the perfect complement to Beckett's lean examinations of the absurdity of life. The works combine "cruelty, laughter, and unexpected tenderness" (The Daily Telegraph). "They give us Beckett distilled. And in the hands of Brook, the sharp observation of human conduct is lovingly delivered" (The Financial Times).
Rough for Theater I
In this one-act sketch, a blind man and a disabled man team up, pooling their abilities in order to advance through the world. Nevertheless, their union becomes increasingly questionable and their loneliness all the more pronounced.
In this performance poem on life and death, a woman dressed in black rocks back and forth on her chair listening to her own voice and life story, interjecting infrequently with the same few words before it begins all over again.
Act Without Words II
With no words at all, the action revolves around two men in sacks and their efforts to avoid being poked by a big stick. Influenced by film, the piece is reminiscent of a silent movie.
This short text vacillates between self and unself, darkness and light, remaining impenetrable.
Come and Go
Resembling a game of chess, three women, old friends, shuffle around the stage, each taking their turn at the center, each whispering to the other something about the third but never disclosing the information to the audience. The movement is stiff, slow and puppet-like, farcical even.
BROOK ON BECKETT
"Beckett was a perfectionist, but can one be a perfectionist without an intuition of perfection? Today, with the passage of time, we see how false were the labels first stuck on Beckett--despairing, negative, pessimistic. Indeed, he peers into the filthy abyss of human existence. His humor saves him and us from falling in, he rejects theories, dogmas, that offer pious consolations, yet his life was a constant, aching search for meaning.
"He situates human beings exactly as he knew them in darkness. Constantly they gaze through windows, in themselves, in others, outwards, sometimes upwards, into the vast unknown. He shares their uncertainties, their pain. But when he discovered theater, it became a possibility to strive for unity, a unity in which sound, movement, rhythm, breath and silence all come together in a single rightness. This was the merciless demand he made on himself an unattainable goal that fed his need for perfection.
"Thus he enters the rare passage that links the ancient Greek theatre through Shakespeare to the present day in an uncompromising celebration of one who looks truth in the face, unknown, terrible, amazing."
"Peter Brook and Samuel Beckett make a natural marriage: both are masters of the irreducible minimum."
"A revelatory evening. Brook's spare, simple staging is alive to every nuance in these plays, and the three performers bring a richly beguiling mixture of light and shade to their performances."
"Leaves a potent and pleasurable impression, both accessible to Beckett newcomers and provocative to aficionados. Simple yet infinite truths that can never go out of date."
International Programming at the Kennedy Center is made possible through the generosity of the Kennedy Center International Committee on the Arts.
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