Michael Laurence's riff on Samuel Beckett's famed short play proves to be an often fascinating look into one man's mid-life experience.
In his efforts to shape his piece, Laurence has assembled a wide range of materials: there are journal entries from previous birthdays dating back 20 years, an unearthed message from an answering machine from his dead mother, and -- to enhance the ironic quotient of the piece -- phone conversations with his capable director, George Demas, who has no problems expressing his uncertainty about Laurence's plans.
Early on, theatergoers see Laurence -- a tall stick of a man with longish hair that borders on being a disheveled mane -- speak with a minimum of emotion into a webcam with his back to the audience. Soon, it becomes difficult not to wonder if the qualms expressed in the taped phone calls might not be on target. But slowly, the piece turns into a rich and brutally honest examination of a life at mid-point. Laurence exposes his insecurities about his life as an artist, in both dramatic and humorous ways. (The letters from fifth-graders who saw him read portions of Beckett's work are priceless.) He expresses deep-seated envy of Jason, a friend and actor, whose performance as Beckett's Krapp has inspired the play.
Moreover, Laurence's relationships -- both successes and failures -- are part of the mix, as is his drinking, which seems to result in a lot of birthday hangovers. Indeed, the actor's behavior on his 30th birthday make up what might be the most eloquent and compelling section of the play, as a breakup with a girlfriend, a panic attack, and a jaunt to a peep show converge in unexpected and beautifully poetic ways. Not surprisingly, it's during this sequence that Laurence's often-deadpan delivery becomes more animated.