Krapp's Last Tape

Portland Mercury, July 31, 2003
by Justin Wescoat Sanders

The Samuel Beckett Estate is extremely possessive of the Master’s works (as was the Master), and typically demands that productions follow his stage directions to a T. And sure enough, those familiar with the text of the one-man show Krapp’s Last Tape will recognize here its every detail and nuance, obediently executed onto the Liminal stage. From the wonderful opening sequence where Krapp painstakingly shuffles about, fishes out a banana, caresses it, peels it, and falls asleep with it dangling out of his mouth; to the way he listens to the tapes of his own voice, frequently stopping the machine for breaks of studied sighs and contemplation; it’s all here, and it’s all meticulous.

John Berendzen, with the help of superb director/choreographer Amanda Boekelheide has nailed Krapp’s mannerisms and uncompromising physicality. With Krapp, every step, breath, sigh, and position has been repeated and magnified for decades, and Berendzen’s movements have a fitting, studied quality about them that reflects a lifetime of routine. With his wild hair and hunched walk, he also has the perfect look for the decrepit Krapp, though his squeaky voice and bulging eyes do add a rather silly dimension to the proceedings, which technically are about an old man dying in the throes of alcoholism and pain over his dead lover, and thus really not silly at all. But for all its campiness, Berendzen’s performance is also fully realized, and frequently hilarious. It’s hard to find such layered, unflinching portrayals in this town, whether you agree with all the acting choices or not.