A moving, funny visit to a small Irish town performed by a perfect cast
By Joel Benjamin
It’s amazing how Irish writers reveal so much with the turn of a phrase. And so it is in Samuel Beckett’s All That Fall at the 59E59 Theaters in which conversations create worlds of details that add up to worlds of emotions. Subtitled “a radio play,” All That Fall is staged by Trevor Nunn as exactly that: old fashioned microphones hang all about the stage, which is bare except for chairs for the actors and one wooden mockup of the front seat of a car, which figures into the non-plot of the play. The actors walk around with scripts in their hands and sound effects produce walking sounds, automobile horns, trains chugging, livestock, etc.
The story: an elderly, disabled, disagreeable woman (Eileen Atkins) walks from her rural home past her neighbors to pick up her blind husband (Michael Gambon) at the local train station to take him home. En route, she runs into: Christy (Ruairi Conaghan), a local who’s carting dung; Mr. Tyler (Frank Grimes), an older retiree on a bicycle; Mr. Slocum (Trevor Cooper) a town official with a car; Tommy (Billy Carter), a porter; Mr. Barrell (James Hayes), the stationmaster; Miss Fitt (Catherine Cusack), a prim lady with vision problems; and Jerry (Liam Thrift), a little boy. That’s it. Seventy-Five minutes of one conversation after another, pert, flippant, scathing and intricately detailed until a portrait of this village is indelibly etched in the audience’s minds and hearts. They speak in the argot of the locality, so specific that it paints a colorful picture.
Nunn has taken his perfect actors and animated them just enough to justify the fact that they are on a stage and not in a radio studio. He has real gems in his two leads, Ms. Atkins and Mr. Gambon, who provide the ultimate in long-married intimacy with a joke shared as they find their way back to their home in the pouring rain. After a line about the upcoming church service they glance at each other and burst into unexpectedly gleeful laughter, giving All That Fall just the note to end on.
Cherry Truluck’s set and costume designs are perfect as are the lighting designs of Phil Hewitt. Paul Groothuis’ sound design gives added dimension to the superb acting.
All That Fall plays only until December 8th so there’s only a short time to see perfection.
*Photos: Carol Rosegg
All That Fall – through December 8, 2013
59 East 59th St. (between Madison & Park Aves.)
New York, NY
Tickets: 212-279-4200 or www.59E59.org
Running Time: 75 Minutes