Reviewed by Eric Grode
Presented by Neo-Futurists and Theater Oobleck at Surf Reality, 172 Allen St., NYC, Aug. 17-24.
If any playwright is due for a good-natured grilling, it's Samuel Beckett. The trio doing the honors in "The Complete Lost Works of Samuel Beckett..." comes up with a suitable combination of reverence and ribbing, even if most of the pieces miss the mark slightly. The play's title tells you pretty much what to expect: a series of Beckett parodies ("No darkness, only dark, no ness"), interrupted by increasingly hostile cease-and-desist orders from the Beckett estate.
As with all sketch comedy, the quality ebbs and flows noticeably. But the Neo-Futurists have swung through town before, and in the past they've made a point of using so many segments that no one piece wears too thin; with only six pieces here, too many get too much stage time. (One skit, which consists primarily of the hideous Bread ballad "If" played again and again and again, doesn't end until the audience literally shouts it off the stage.)
Several of the skits spring from terrific ideas. Who can resist an effort from the seven-year-old Beckett, performed in a Lucy Van Pelt-style lemonade stand, called "Sammy's Playhows"? But, as with many of the other pieces, the idea wears out its welcome with several minutes to go. Similarly, the concept of virulent objections from the estate never really becomes more than a framing device.
Ben Schneider's sharp, anything-for-a-laugh physical comedy livens up several of the sequences considerably, and both Greg Allen and Danny Thompson have a way with Beckettian prose. Allen even finds a way to get the audience involved in a singalong of Rodgers and Hammerstein's "Happy Talk" without veering too far from Beckett.
If only Samuel Beckett had left the trio with one or two more lost works, and allowed a few cuts here and there. I know that was hardly his style, but he was seven when he wrote "Happy Happy Bunny Visits Sad Sad Owl." The result would have been irresistible. As it is, we can be content with a bunch of funny ideas, albeit ones that go on after they really shouldn't have gone on.