“Endgame” took the Schuster Theatre stage Feb. 13-17 as the second production of Fringe Fest Erie. The show, an absurd tragicomedy written by Samuel Beckett, is a simultaneously humorous and depressing exploration of the endless cycles in which we exist.
The production had an intimate, four-member cast and took place entirely in a nondescript isolated room, furnished only with a rolling chair, two dustbins and a painting.
Little of the outside world was revealed to the audience, save mysterious references to the gray landscape, eerily still ocean and unchanging weather.
Alaina Manchester, an assistant professor of theater and 2007 Gannon alumna, had the pleasure of directing the production, which she noted is infamous for being “difficult to make heads or tails of.”
“In this play, the world has moved on and our characters, who have isolated themselves from the world, continue going through the motions and old patterns they are accustomed to, even though they no longer serve, are not helpful and are not healthy,” Manchester said.
“It highlights the frustrations we have with old power structures and ways of thinking that continue to be in power, seemingly for no real reason,” she added.
George Meucci, a sophomore theater communication student, starred as the protagonist Hamm. Hamm, who is blind and immobilized by old age, is entirely confined to a wheelchair, yet still calls the shots in the claustrophobic room of “Endgame.”
Meucci did a superb job portraying the demanding and self-obsessed, yet still anxious and bored, Hamm. Hamm is unable to see past his own suffering and frequently peppers conversations with the cynical comment that there is no cure for being on Earth.
“It was a weird and wild journey, but I had an amazing time putting this absurd show together with an amazing cast and crew,” Meucci said.
Brian Bowersox commanded the stage alongside Meucci as Clov.
Clov was taken in by Hamm as a boy, and has continued to serve Hamm for years despite his own increasingly obvious infirmity. Clov spends much of the play wrestling between his desire to leave and his obligation to stay.
Justin Karns and Lauren Sovisky rounded out the production as Nagg and Nell, Hamm’s parents who live in the corner of the room in dustbins.
Karns and Sovisky played the elderly couple with sympathy, humor and nuance. Though both characters are beginning to lose their physical faculties as well as their memories, they offer some of the most insightful and poignant lines of the play.
The incredible job of the makeup artists complemented the skilled acting. Meucci, Bowersox, Karns and Sovisky were believably transformed into their elderly roles, complete with detailed laugh lines and wrinkles, and gray hair for Karns and Sovisky.
Two more shows will take the Schuster Theatre stage before the end of Fringe Fest.
“Therapy” opened Tuesday evening and runs again at 8 p.m. Wednesday, while “The 23:59:59 Show” will mark the end of Fringe Fest at 8 p.m. Saturday.