I was lucky enough to catch another play at what is becoming one of my favorite off-Broadway theaters, the Soho Playhouse (15 Vandam Street). The play in question, Krapp, 39 is a one-man 80-minute intermission-less romp, a play of ideas more than performance. But that’s not to say Michael Lawrence’s performance (he also wrote the Krapp of Krapp, 39) wasn’t solid, it’s just that I felt the ‘idea’ of Krapp, 39 outweighed the Krapp itself.
Krapp, 39 jumps from the various birthdays of the main and only character, as he literally jumps from place to place on the stark stage. Taking his central idea from Samuel Beckett’s Vaudeville Pantomime, where the main character turns older and reflects on his life with the aid of a tape called “Farewell to Love,” Lawrence basically moves round the space under George Demas direction, rolling his rolling chair between two desks, walking to his wide screen video monitor, mugging for his handheld video camera and standing to play that same camera over the litter on his desk, showing on a big video monitor the pieces of his life, while they are talked about over ‘taped’ phone messages playing over the house speakers.
Well that’s kinda the point here. The state of mind of Michael Lawrence’s character (who is him, not really a character) becomes increasingly disjointed as he works through his ambitions and mortality, his momâ€™s death, some hilarious minutes with a dialect book, his need to pull off this monumental feat of taping himself to thenâ€¦well, I wonâ€™t give it away, but again, the ‘ideas’ of Krapp are pretty cool and Lawrenceâ€™s execution is mostly solid.
The last twenty minutes of the Krapp in Krapp, 39 really sparkle though. We finally see into this guy’s head-which is the point I know-with some genuine moments of real revelation from Lawrence.
Does one go to see a play for the last twenty minutes, or because the theater is neato or because the ideas of a play is so relevant and interesting they could outweigh the actual meat (or Krapp) of the play, that it is worth seeing? Or because, in this staid season of musicals and the over Disney-fication of New York Theater stuff, Krapp (if you will allow me) like Krapp, 39 is worth seeing for the very fact that it is interesting and different and has a solid idea at its heart? I don’t know the answer to those questions, but go see Krapp, 39 and decide for yourself.