Saturday, November 16, 2013

All That Fall

"All That Fall" at 59E59 Theatre, November 10, 2013

(Photo by Carol Rosegg)

All was gray - the afternoon, the audience, and for the most part, the somewhat starry cast, featuring Eileen Atkins and Michael Gambon, arrives from London (mostly) in this minimally staged radio play by Samuel Beckett, directed by Trevor Nunn. 

The story, being Beckett, is a bit nihilist, about an older woman of questionable health making her way to meet her blind husband at the train station.  We shuffle along with Mrs. Rooney (Ms. Atkins) as she encounters a menu of rural British characters, the dung peddler Christy (Ruairi Conaghan) on his cart, the retired Mr. Tyler (Frank Grimes) on his bike, the Clerk of the Racecourse Mr. Slocum (Trevor Cooper) in his car, each in advancing means of transportation, but none speeding the dreary tale along.  The aptly named Miss Fitt (Catherine Cusack), a protestant zealot gives Mrs Rooney the final bit of assistance upon arrival at the station.

After much consternation about the late arrival of Mr. Rooney's (Mr. Gambon) train, he finally appears slightly worse for wear, but tight-lipped about the cause of the delay.  I won't spoil the source, but there's an obscure plot moment near the end that suggests his part in it.

Performances are generally even, with Ms. Atkins bearing the majority of the spoken burden.  Her characterization is, as one would certainly expect, spot on, mumbling, grumbling, beseeching and complaining in every interaction.  Mr. Gambon arrives prepared to deliver to a full Broadway house, filling every inch of the theatre and then some.  Despite this overbalance, he still turns in a well-crafted performance.  The supporting roles are capably executed as well.

Mr. Nunn seems to have had little to do given the strength of his leading couple (both on book), other than lay out their traffic pattern and arrange the supporting roles around them.  Paul Groothuis' sound design distracts as much as it adds, featuring dragging footfalls for Mrs. Rooney that sound more like a spirit's presence in a mediocre haunted house.  The set, as it is, features suspended microphones which go largely ignored in a black room. 

Still Ms. Atkins and Mr. Gambon are the justifiable draw, evoking the ennui, frustration and anger of losing one's power in the world by remaining in it for so long.

This limited engagement of All That Fall runs through December 8.  Find tickets here.

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