Malignant Memories

The Oregonian, July 25, 2003
by Nathan Skidmore

Avant-garde theater shifted gears in 1958, when the first performance of “Krapp’s Last Tape” showed thespians that Samuel Beckett’s “Waiting for Godot” was just one of his shades of gray. His most famous play waded through existentialist territory, but the more recent “Krapp’s Last Tape” signaled a change in Beckett’s writing—a move toward an autobiographical style.

As the main character, Krapp reveals his own past in tragically comic form. At one moment he is the dazed introspective struggling with his dreams and fears, the next he is caught up in a semi-dialogue with personal reel-to-reel recordings, reliving his most painful moments. Like “Godot,” themes of repetition and the bleakness that Beckett drew from life are omnipresent. Krapp realizes that although time has taken his life, he is still the brain he hears on tape, desperate and confused as ever.

Portland’s Liminal Performance Group, which formed in 1997, leans toward plays that incorporate media into live performances. Since Krapp spends the bulk of the play interacting with a reel-to-reel, the play drew Liminal’s attention with its modern approach to storytelling. Liminal adds layers to this deceptively simple piece by using various types of media to complement the acting onstage, following the sometimes sad, always thoughtful life of an old man.

Continues 10:30 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays through Aug. 9. Liminal Space, 403 N.W. Fifth Ave.; $6-$15 (pay what you will), 503-890-2993.