City Paper is not for tourists
Beckett’s “The Lost Ones” posits a capsule inhabited by 200 people who don’t know how they got there or what might exist beyond its walls. Carter Jahnke has performed his solo adaptation of it for years, including a run at the 2009 Capital Fringe Festival, but its new staging—the maiden production in Spooky Action Theater’s new black box space in the basement of the Universalist National Memorial Church—has reportedly been further revised. As it opens, a recorded echo of Jahnke’s sand-rubbed voice presents us with the sacred dimensions of this cage: Fifty meters around, 18 meters high. There are rotting ladders to nowhere and passages in the walls; there are people compelled to explore them and people who have given up. (“The need to climb is widely spread. To feel it no more is rare deliverance.”) Jahnke, dressed in a worn white shirt and torn jeans, his face wizened and sunburned, intones for us the social dynamics and deleterious physical and psychological effects of this close confinement as though articulating it for the first time. (“The dessication of the envelope robs nudity of much of its charm.”) Even on a gilded stage, this material would feel oppressive; in a basement, performed on a paint-spattered round tarp against a backdrop of gray brushstrokes, you feel a sliver of the delirium and claustrophobia that defines this world, and then Jahnke’s haunted performance twists the screws. He represents his fellow inhabitants with a little army of asymmetrical, long-limbed figurines, towering above them Gulliver-like. A few more of those crooked little statuettes would better sell the idea of a world in which we’re told each person has a one square meter parcel, but that’s picking at nits. Nothing about this is inviting, but it’s a serious, fully committed exploration of one of Beckett’s enduring riddles.