A man sits at a desk. A single light illuminates him. For the next three minutes, he sits and thinks. I’ve just described three of the most compelling minutes I’ve ever experienced in a theatre. The man is John Hurt and the play is Samuel Beckett’s Krapp’s Last Tape.
In this one-act, one-man play, Krapp listens to one of many tapes he has recorded, recounting his experiences and feelings. He responds as he rewinds and fast-forwards through various passages, ultimately creating a new tape – his last.
With a running time of less than an hour, it has to be a pretty spectacular experience to justify presenting Krapp’s Last Tape by itself. In the hands of Mr. Hurt and director Michael Colgan, this production is powerful and unforgettable. It’s often said that the main responsibility of an actor is not to just say lines, but to listen and react. Mr. Beckett has created the best test of an actor as that is the entire play. At no point did I ever feel that I was watching someone act. Mr. Hurt so convincingly becomes Krapp that towards the end of the play when he begins recording his last tape, I felt myself grow increasingly depressed that this incredible evening would soon end. This is acting at its finest. It also represents the first time Mr. Hurt has appeared on stage in Los Angeles.
There is a moment in the play when the young Krapp is heard on tape saying “Past midnight. Never knew such silence. The earth might be uninhabited.” The echo of sirens and the blaring of car horns did all they could to distract from that concept and from this play, but even those sounds cannot defeat the brilliance of this production.
In our fast-paced world where “more” is often tantamount to “better,” Krapp’s Last Tape is a testament to being still, being present, and being contemplative. Anyone who values great acting and great theater owes it to themselves to rush to the Kirk Douglas before this limited engagement ends on November 4th.