Beckett’s “Endgame,” “Currency” on LA stages, “Doc Martin 7” on DVD

 

Samuel Beckett’s best friend in So Cal continues to be the Center Theatre Group. Their latest coup: reteaming Alan Mandell and Barry McGovern—who displayed such great chemistry together in CTG’s “Waiting for Godot” at the Mark Taper Forum in 2012—in Beckett’s “Endgame” at the Kirk Douglas Theatre in Culver City (through May 22).

Hamm can’t stand. Clov can’t sit. “Every man his speciality,” as Beckett puts it in this tragicomedy, bleaker than “Godot” and every bit as black in its inimitable Irish gallows-humor. Mandell is far and away the best Hamm this reviewer has seen in six productions of the play, commanding the stage with only his voice. The actor, who performed the play under Beckett’s direction early in his career, directs with an equally authoritative hand.

McGovern is the perfect Clov, the yin to Mandell’s yang, as he moves about their bomb shelter-like abode matching wits with his blind companion. James Greene and Charlotte Rae (alternating with Anne Gee Byrd) are all too credible as Hamm’s ancient parents, sequestered in trash bins, whom he curses for having given him birth. John Iacovelli’s scenic design adds just the right touch.

There’s a touch of Eugene Ionesco if not Beckett in Jennie Webb’s new play “Currency,” appropriate for a playwright who describes her style as “domestic absurdism.” This wacky contemporary farce (in its premiere production at Los Angeles’ intimate Inkwell Theater through May 21) is nearly as bleak as “Endgame” in its assessment of the current economic situation and the problem of unemployment, and full of wild solutions.

The cast—Dale Waddington, Warren Davis, Shirley Jordan, Gina Torrecilla, and Josh Stamell—melds well under Annie McVey’s attentive direction, with Stamell largely stealing the show as a clueless ne’er-do-well who may well be from another planet. Catch it while you can.

After a disappointing season that made this viewer wonder if the show had a future, it’s a pleasure to report “Doc Martin” is back in top form, with Series 7 now available on DVD from Acorn Media. It’s not enough to bring back Martin Clunes (as the titular curmudgeon), Eileen Atkins (his no-nonsense aunt) and the rest of Portwenn’s quirky characters unless you provide them with good material; fortunately Julian Unthank and his colleagues have done just that, stepping up to the plate with some superb scripts. The only problem is that once you watch one, you want to immediately devour the others regardless of what may be on the day’s agenda.