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Grim times—economically, politically, and culturally—are the perfect occasion for the Catalyst Theater’s appropriately decayed production of Samuel Beckett’s Endgame. The play finds Endgame’s four characters in a semiunderground refuge from an unspecified catastrophe that has taken place outside. Hamm, the master of the house (Eric Singdahlsen), sits blind and lame in a homemade wheelchair, shouting demands as if what he wanted done still had any point. Behind him in his-and-hers trash cans are his legless parents, Nagg and Nell (Steven Kirkpatrick and Wendy Wilmer). The only member of the household who is still able to move, still able to enact his will at all, is their servant, Clov (Jesse Terrill). As the four wait for their ordeal to draw to its inevitable close, they pick at each other, threaten each other, and futilely try to figure out what their experience means. Singdahlsen commands the action with a voice as dynamic as his ravaged body is static. The makeup and costume design (by Michele Reisch, and Timothy R. King and Reisch, respectively) are particularly effective on him—his flushed skin could be from radiation or plague, and the blood trickling from his nose to soak his face cloth tells us he doesn’t have much time left. Clov longs for order, and director Christopher Janson has Terrill express this desire by always moving about the stage in precisely the same way—the same number of steps, the same circuitous paths, the same clatter as he erects a ladder for his periodic peeps into the world outside. Kirkpatrick and Wilmer are almost pixieish, acting as if living in the trash cans within constant earshot of their martinet son would be a lark if it weren’t for the starvation. Kirkpatrick gets one of the inkiest black-humored laughs responding to Hamm’s bellows of agony. “Why did you engender me?” “I didn’t know.” “Didn’t know what?” “That it would be you.” Tom Donahue’s set mocks the chaos of the world with precise geometry—a pair of clerestory windows, the two trash cans, Hamm’s square throne sitting precisely in the center between them. Only the debris around the cans shows the creep of impending doom. Beckett premiered the play in 1957, when existentialist pessimism was a fresh idea. A lot of nihilism has passed under the bridge in the ensuing 45 years, but with an apocalypse again perhaps upon us, Endgame can still be affecting. —Janet Hopf