Barry McGovern in
Barry McGovern in "I'll Go On" at the Center Theatre Group/Kirk Douglas Theatre.
(© Craig Schwartz)

After dazzling audiences as Vladimir in Waiting For Godot in 2012 at The Mark Taper Forum, Barry McGovern has returned to Center Theatre Group with I'll Go On, a two-act monologue pulling excerpts from Beckett's three novels, Molloy, Malone Dies, and The Unnamable, now playing the Kirk Douglas. McGovern is triumphant as three displaced title characters who luridly mull about death and sex.

McGovern, with fellow Beckett scholar Gerry Dukes, selected the texts, validating that every line of dialogue come from the original novels. The stories are insightful, poignant, and funny. Though the majority of the play contains the ramblings of haunted men, sometimes at breakneck, nearly incomprehensible speed, so much of the story is compelling. His first character, Molloy, reminisces of his sojourns while biking to his mother's house, including the odd people he has encountered. Malone's tale is a stream-of-consciousness as the angry man lies naked in a cell. Lastly, the Unnamable puts audiences up close to those forgotten people in the subways or the buses who carry on passionate conversations with nobody. Every word has particular meaning to the character but sounds like gibberish to an outsider.

As an actor McGovern is exquisite. He masters the Beckett patter, spitting out the words like bullets, but with a precision and breath control that is mind-boggling. It also does not hurt that he's been performing this work since he and Dukes created it in 1985, and his emersion into the characterizations is evident.

This collaborative effort between McGovern, Dukes, and director Colm O'Briain has been fleshed out to the point where one can visualize the dilapidated world of Molloy, the despondency and humiliation of life of Malone, and the consternation of the Unnamable being half-naked in the final monologue.

Designer Robert Ballagh's simple but clever set, with marble-like etchings, resembles a mausoleum. Lighting designer James McConnell keeps the spots and overhead lights tight on McGovern, isolating him and closing him into his cold tomb.

In I'll Go On, McGovern, Dukes, and Colm O'Briain have successfully engaged the audience not only in the sometimes-difficult-to-digest style of Beckett, but in the larger picture he paints, that of the fury of human frailty and emotion.