I was explaining to the woman on the phone, calling regarding A.C.T.’s upcoming shows and my possible attendance, that money was tight. Looking over their lineup, and realizing I couldn’t possibly afford to see many plays this year, I admitted that honestly I probably wouldn’t be going to see any of them. “It sounds like you’re just not a lover of the theater,” she smugly observed.
And yet somehow I always manage to scrape together enough at the last minute for a new Cutting Ball production. Perhaps my tastes just align better with director Rob Melrose’s, but I think it also has something to do with the fact that I’ve never felt let down by any of their performances. Since they’re a relatively small company, you get to know their usual suspects and look forward to seeing how an actor will tackle an upcoming part.
When last I saw Paul Gerrior, he was popping his head out of a bin in the fairly dotty role of Nagg in End Game. In Krapp’s Last Tape, which just closed at the Exit Theater this weekend, he wheezes and huffs his way about stage in the lead part, with David Sinaiko providing the voice of a younger Krapp recorded on reel-to-reel audio tape. Although for much of the play the character is simply listening and reflecting on ruminations of his thirty-nine year old self, Gerrior is wonderful to watch. Whenever he moved to the foreground to perform some business, we all eagerly craned our necks to see above the obstructing sea of heads. Likewise we followed his every dash off stage to the loo with rapt inquisitiveness. I’ll venture that never has a banana been more lovingly regarded or more breathily consumed than in Gerrior’s portrayal of the elder Krapp.
The meat of the play is sixty-nine year old Krapp’s reaction to the tape dutifully logged as “box 3, spool 5,” wherein the silky voice from out of the past is found to be embarrassing and infuriating but also prompts melancholy over opportunities missed, sensations unsavored. Long suffering over his magnum opus, which his younger self abandoned much to labor over, has ended up producing a book which has only sold seventeen copies. “Perhaps my best years are gone… But I wouldn’t want them back. Not with the fire in me now,” explains Sinaiko’s voice, as Gerrior ruefully but tenderly curls his arm around the machine. In this sense, Krapp is more than just a one man show. While visibly absent, Sinaiko’s presence, the optimism, the curiosity and recklessness come through strongly in his performance giving Gerrior a strong foil to play against. The pathetic reality of an old man, living largely vicariously through his own words and observations is softened by Gerrior’s physicality in the moment. A shake of the head in disapproval is softened by a smile, a burst of anger that clears the desk is balanced by his bursting into a baritone song, evidence that he indulges in what his younger self could never bring himself to do. The once eager author-to-be is now nearly voiceless, “Nothing to say, not a squeak.” Yet we still all burst out in laughter to hear the relish with which he barked out the inane exclamation, “Spool!”
The hour frankly whizzed by.