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Shows Worth Seeing:


By Samuel Beckett
Under the Radar Festival
Public Theatre
425 Lafayette St.
Box office: 212-967-7555


Samuel Beckett wrote Watt while hiding from the Nazis in a small village in southern France. By day he did menial labor, and at night he worked ploddingly on this strange, digressive and hilarious novel about an Irish servant who is so morbidly witty and preternaturally logical in his observations that his world becomes a brilliant study in the pointlessness of existence—as well as a testament to the joys of exercising the mind by parsing that pointlessness with obsessive pedantry. In this 55-minute work-in-progress from Dublin’s Gate Theatre (part of the Under the Radar Festival), the veteran Beckett actor Barry McGovern gives vivid physical life to the elusive title character and uses his singular gift for drily ironical narration to make the text’s strings of absurd logical digressions cogent and funny. Only a few short sections of the novel are excerpted for use here, and the piece’s neat and tasteful dramatic structure of arrival-discovery-departure is consequently rather too tidy, in my view, for a novel famous for its radical accidentalism, unruliness and un-Aristotelian loose ends: while reading one tends to forget the overall shape of the story, which is part of its point. McGovern is always a joy to watch and listen to, however, and his performance will very likely send some audience members to seek out the book, and that’s good. In any case, the show is a rare event, as only very few Irish insiders these days are able to wrest permission from the strict Beckett Estate to stage the author’s non-dramatic works.



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