There’s still time to nominate local icons for Best of D.C.
The Lost Ones by Samuel Beckett
Warehouse – Next Door
July 15 at 8 p.m.
July 19 at 1:30 p.m.
July 23 at 7:15 p.m.
July 24 at 11:45 p.m.
They say: “Closely held. A Beckett gem. Rarely permitted to be played. With scores of tiny puppets, actor Carter Jahncke enacts a mesmerizing text. Beckett’s haunting vision reaches out, enfolds us in a chamber far outside, and deep within the mind.”
Brian’s take: You may want to take a cab home from The Lost Ones, an extended soliloquy so intoxicating that Carter Jahncke, who as The Aged One is the stage’s only breathing player, has to literally shake the scraggly character out of his body before he’s able to bow. Even after the self-exorcism he still seems a tad afflicted — like a shaman returning from a vision quest, or a child who has just seen his grandpa’s ghost.
What he has seen is a stark and abstract panorama of a society, culled from Samuel Beckett’s short story Le dÃ©peupleur, and constructed for the stage with dozens of tiny human figurines (the non-breathing players) imprisoned inside an imaginary cylinder with a few ladders the only false promise of escape. The arbitrary paramaters of this cylindrical world both comfort and excruciate The Aged One, as he endeavors to describe them with painstaking specificity: the precise angle at which occupants of a certain station must lean; the direction one class of creature must walk, in perpetuity; the hierarchy of preferences for the ascension and descension of ladders. Meanwhile, the lilliputian dolls are fragile, frozen, and expressive, and Jahncke cultivates a disturbing rapport with them, relishing opportunities for manipulation, and dreading those moments when, crouching to inspect the figures, it becomes clear that they are created in his image.
Though immortalized as a playwright, Beckett was an accomplished novelist too. Still, he maintained a certain ambivalence towards prose — the fact that readers could close a book at their leisure bothered him. A theater, on the other hand, is an ingenious kind of cage, and Beckett reveled in the possibility that he could trap characters and audience members in there together.
Actors of Beckett, however, commonly find themselves trapped not behind the proscenium, but behind the language. Not Jahncke. He harnesses every twist and turn of a text that is, how shall I put this, not terribly limber. He avoids the frantic compulsion to chase after the words, instead allowing each new thought to creep up on him from behind, crafting a production with director Richard Henrich that, in addition to trapping character and audience, jointly startles, titillates, and terrifies them as well — a realization, rather than recitation, of Beckett’s vision.
See it if: You just don’t see the point of it all. This is the play for you.
Skip it if: You hyperventilate in enclosed spaces. You won’t last 10 minutes.