Picture a unique diamond cut to utter perfection, whose luster deepens with age, and you will have a general idea of how brilliant and singular Barry McGovern’s well honed one-man-show “I’ll Go On” is. Originally staged 25 years ago, McGovern performs his revival of this work masterfully with the benefit of years of experience.
This extraordinary evening at the Kirk Douglas Theatre in Culver City is culled from three of Irish literary giant Samuel Beckett’s novels, and manifests as three interconnected monologues demonstrating a tour-de-force of verbal dexterity.
The Center Theatre Group has brought us some of Beckett’s best gems, with “Waiting For Godot” at the Mark Taper Forum, in which McGovern excelled as Vladimir; and “Krapp’s Last Tape,” performed by the incomparable John Hurt. Both were written by Beckett for the stage.
McGovern and his co-adapter, Gerry Dukes, however, have accomplished something else entirely. They’ve created a stage production crystallizing the essence of three Beckett novels, “Malloy,” “Malone Dies” and “The Unnamable,” transforming 400 literary pages into a 90-minute, one-man, two-act theatrical dazzler.
Not a word has been altered from Beckett’s original text, though some have been shifted about a bit to make storyline sense. And the language is dazzling. It’s verbal sleight-of-hand that will make your head spin with wonder and laughter in its profundity and absurdity.
As co-creator Dukes’ program notes state, “(Beckett’s) novels are, in a strict sense, already scored for the speaking voice, they are fictions aspiring to be or claiming the condition of dramatic speech.” Thus, even without a traditional beginning, middle and end, the script is entirely accessible, as witnessed by the 10-year-old boy seated next to me on opening night who was completely engaged by the production.
McGovern first appears in a black overcoat and a single spotlight as he stands before the closed curtain. Peeling and eating a banana, he gives us a witty prologue about “waiting for the show,” a nice rhyme-like twist on “Waiting for Godot.”
“In the anguish of waiting,” he says, “you never noticed you were waiting alone — that’s the show. Waiting alone.” Maybe that’s life, or maybe that’s the point, or non-point.
The curtain opens on the simplest of sets: a fluorescent-lighted frame that gives the illusion of a three-dimensional box that could have been inspired by James Turrell’s light works at LACMA.
Here McGovern is Molloy, the overcoat now a robe, his back against the farthest corner of his mother’s room; “I have taken her place,” he tells us, “my mother whose charity kept me dying.” He rapid-patters through his birth, his life, his crutch, his confrontations with police, using a sawhorse to portray his bicycle, which creates an unfortunate mishap with a woman and her dog.
In the next monologue, McGovern as Malone is alone and dying. You might not think so, but a prolonged mathematical meditation on how to keep 16 stones in one’s pockets, sucking on each without repeating any, leaving one pocket empty at all times then starting over again, becomes a stunning case of oral prestidigitation that reminds us of the twists and turns of life’s meaningless concerns.
And in act two, in a long white gown and lying upon what appears to be a funerary platform, McGovern as The Unnamable says in the show’s third monologue, “I soon should be dead at last,” but still faces “the mortal tedium” of life. “I’ll laugh, that’s how it will end,” he tells us, because even as he arrives at the end of life, he cannot fathom his real self. Until it ends, “I’ll go on.” That, too, is life.
We are privileged to have this production in our midst. Don’t miss it. More information about “I’ll Go On” at the Kirk Douglas Theatre in Culver City can be found at www.centertheatregroup.org or call (213) 628-2772.
Samohi stars shine
Santa Monica High School boasts one of the most impressive music programs, not just in the city but in the country, a blessing for young people who know early on that they want to pursue professional careers in music.
This Friday, Jan. 17, five talented seniors will present a special showcase performance featuring works by Mozart, Goossens, Tchaikovsky, Dvorak, Brahms, Gaubert and others. The recital will be held at 7 p.m. at Mt. Olive Lutheran Church located at 1343 Ocean Park Blvd. in Santa Monica.
The five senior soloists include: Finn Bordal, violin; Jake Gold, French horn; Jeffrey Ho, cello; Sarah Ohanian, flute; and Ryan Roberts, oboe.
Organized by the students, the fundraiser benefits the Symphony Orchestra’s upcoming European tour, taking these 89 talented students to the cities of Vienna, Prague and Baden-Baden.
“Their inspiring performances are not to be missed,” comments Joni Swenson, director of the Samohi Orchestras. “Every aspect of this concert, from its inception to production has been directed by the Samohi student orchestra board in an effort to raise funds for the Symphony’s upcoming European tour.”
Tickets are $10 for adults and students. For further information and to make a tax-deductible donation to the program and tour, visit www.samohiorchestras.org.
Schoolhouses also rock!
The Morgan-Wixson Theatre brings the pop culture phenomenon known as “Schoolhouse Rock Live!” to the musical stage under the umbrella of the company’s Youth Education/Entertainment Series (Y.E.S.). In 2012, LA Parent Magazine voted it one of L.A.’s top two children’s theatres.
Based on the Emmy Award-winning 1970s TV cartoon show that taught history, grammar, math and more through tuneful songs, this adaptation features whimsical music and lyrics by such clever songsmiths as Bob Dorough and Dave Frishberg.
It’s a short run, Saturdays and Sundays at 11 a.m., Feb. 1-16, at the Morgan-Wixson, on Pico Boulevard at 27th Street; tickets $10 for adults and $8 for kids under 12. Visit www.morgan-wixson.org or call (310) 828-7519.
Sarah A. Spitz is a former freelance arts producer for NPR and former staff producer at public radio station KCRW-Santa Monica. She has also reviewed theatre for LAOpeningNights.com.