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Barry McGovern’s one-man Beckett show, Christopher Plummer’s ‘Word’ solo

Barry McGovern
Barry McGovern
Photo by Craig Schwartz

If you’re an aficionado of Samuel Beckett’s work, chances are “I’ll Go On” is already on your radar. If you’re not, Barry McGovern’s one-man show (through February 9 at the Kirk Douglas Theater in Culver City) is the most accessible and potent introduction to the Nobel Prize-winning playwright-novelist you’re likely to find.

Beckett’s novels and prose pieces more often than not appear to take place inside the human mind, making them a natural for solo theatre. The concept behind “I’ll Go On” (based on the author’s trilogy of post-war novels “Molloy,” “Malone Dies” and “The Unnamable”) is that the protagonists are in a sense “all the same character, searching for peace, searching for silence, an end to hassle and trouble,” according to McGovern, “and the only way they can do that is through words, even though they're trying to escape words. ‘I have no voice and must speak,’ " as the Unnamable says.

The standing ovation greeting McGovern’s performance on opening night was well earned, to say the least. Some of it, of course, was for Colm Ó Briain’s direction and Robert Ballagh’s set design. In any case, buy, beg or steal a ticket, but get over to Culver City and see it—it took me 25 years to catch up with it (having heard about it when McGovern first did it in Chicago in 1988) and it was worth the wait.
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And though I’ve yet to view it, Oscar winner Christopher Plummer’s “A Word or Two” falls into that “must-see” category. Beyond the man’s reputation, I trust Charles Isherwood’s comment in The New York Times that the show (which plays at Ahmanson Theatre for 16 performances only, January 19 through February 9) is “… a passionate love letter to language…”

Plummer, who confesses to being “hooked on the intoxication of words,” spent much of his time growing up in Montreal reading Shaw, Shakespeare, Kipling, Lewis Carroll, Lord Byron, Dylan Thomas, W.H. Auden and others. (What, no Beckett?)

And if you missed Plummer’s last appearance at the Ahmanson as the legendary John Barrymore in William Luce's “Barrymore,” as I regrettably did, the film adaptation of the play will air on “Great Performances,” January 31 on PBS stations. Set your DVRs.

More from Jordan:

Best of Orange County Theatre 2013

Chagall & Magritte highlight NYC exhibits, Hockney shows closing in LA, San Fran

Art galleries help revitalize Culver City

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