There’s still time to nominate local icons for Best of D.C.
You aren’t likely to get lost on the way to The Lost Ones, mostly because there’ll be so many theater and concert patrons hanging around 7th Street to give directions. The Warehouse Theater complex has become something of a labyrinth of late, what with the Warehouse 2nd Stage next door, in addition to the Warehouse Next Door, and now another performance space in what amounts to a broad hallway in the theater proper. The space is perhaps 10 feet wide and 20 feet long, and can accommodate only 15 patrons for the 55-minute Samuel Beckett monologue that the Scena Theatre is giving a site-specific mounting. The site, in this case, has exposed brick walls with a couple of ladders leaning against them, plywood flooring, and a single hanging light fixture. It’s a sort of cell, as is appropriate, because the Man sleeping as the audience enters has a story to tell about a sort of prison. “A flattened cylinder fifty meters round and sixteen high” is how he describes it, adding that on an almost unreachable second level, there are tunnels and niches, none of which lead outside. Still, there is “the need to climb,” and as actor Carter Jahncke speaks of its motivating power, he unearths small metal figures—existentialist toy soldiers, perhaps 70 in all—from two mounds of sand and arranges them around a box against which he has leaned tiny ladders with rungs missing. The image is compelling, if not terribly edifying, a physical representation of the theme running through all Beckett’s work: that humankind is trapped in a world with no way out. Here the relentless search for an escape route is discussed rather than acted, so Robert McNamara’s spare staging must find ways for Jahncke to animate it. The director isn’t above having his actor play with props—putting an empty bucket over his head at one point, stripping naked toward evening’s end—but too much of this would be out of sync with the material, so things are mostly kept simple. Fortunately, the actor’s voice is a supple, evocative instrument, and the evening is as brief as it is austere. Beckett received the Nobel Prize in 1969, so The Lost Ones (Le Depeupleur), written the following year, initially received a great deal of attention as an intriguing, if minor, work. It was regarded at its premiere as the author’s most sustained narrative in years, though in a career marked mostly by dramas of stasis, this was hardly a daring claim. —Bob Mondello