Endgame (an Essay)

May 11, 2008

I first saw Beckett’s Endgame twelve years ago at the conservatory I was attending. I loved it.

I sat close to the stage, next to the boy I liked. I was blown away by the crafted laughter about things that, ultimately, were very serious. The play offered me intellectual and spiritual respite from technical dance training.

In the twelve years that have since passed, both of my grandmothers died. I moved five times. I got married. I was pregnant and lost the pregnancy. There have been many beginnings and endings.

In short, life has happened.

Tonight, I brought life with me to BAM and a new performance of Endgame. I connected with Beckett’s play and his characters in many new ways.

Nagg and Nell, talking from their solitary trashcans, became the nursing home patients with whom I’ve worked. Trapped and protected by their claustrophobic metal homes, they search for a way to connect. They eat dry biscuits and try to tell jokes like they used to. They itch, they fall asleep, they die.

Clov and Hamm’s stuffed dog became the teddy bear of my friend’s six year old son. The bear he put down just long enough to open his arms wide and, leading with his little chest, give me an enormous, open hug.

Hamm’s failed search for painkillers brought me to friends’ diagnoses that are unbearable — and the raw aliveness of bearing. I felt the hopelessness of the set’s nearly windowless walls.

Tonight, Nagg and Nell, Clov and Hamm became the partnerships I have known. We stumble through repetition and annoyance, power, deception, love and need. We see one another and also avoid seeing.

Beckett, through his meticulously choreographed stage directions and script, gives me a lot to see. He points me to murky and meaningful areas of my life. Tonight, as with the first time I saw Endgame, I felt the audience around me laugh while I did not. I felt the tension, or connection, between being entertained and being real.