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NY Theater Reviews

Ralph Fiennes in First Love

MINIMUM BECKETT

By MATT WINDMAN

Three one-man Beckett dramas based on works not originally designed for the stage find themselves part of the Lincoln Center Festival.

One decade ago, Dublin's Gate Theatre performed Samuel Beckett's entire catalogue of 19 dramas at Lincoln Center Festival. This summer, as an encore, the Gate returned with three one-man Beckett dramas based on work that was not originally designed for the stage. We caught the festival's all-day marathon, in which all the plays were performed back to back.

First up at 5:30pm was Eh Joe starring Liam( Schindler's List) Neeson. Eh Joe was originally written for television and only recently adapted for the stage. Joe sits alone and says nothing throughout the entire half-hour piece, but becomes tormented by an offstage female voice that echoes throughout the theater. An extreme close-up of his tormented face is projected on a large scrim. As a result, the only real movement in the show consists of twists and turns of his brow, and the sweat down his cheek.

While this did prove to be the most fascinating of the three performances, we can't help but commiserate with the regular patrons who paid full-price to see a 30-minute show, which may have added up to more than $2 per minute, making it more expensive than many sex chat hotlines.

Next at 7pm was Ralph Fiennes, another Schindler's List alumnus, in First Love, a 55-minute monologue based on some writings about a homeless man who becomes romantically involved with a woman who he meets on a park bench. While the piece proved to be far less theatrically interesting than Eh Joe, Fiennes displayed fantastic comic timing, and the bulk of the audience seemed to love the performance.

Last on the list was I'll Go On, performed by Barry McGovern, who is considered one of the world's leading Beckett interpreters. I'll Go On is a distillation of Beckett's post-war novels Molloy, Malone Dies and The Unnamable. McGovern possessed a frentic, animated spirit that would have made him perfectly at home in Waiting for Godot or Endgame.