“I wasn’t sure it was going to happen,” wrote director Mark Macey of Stage East’s latest double-bill, which reopened Eastport Arts Center for events last week, and continues with three more shows this weekend—Friday and Saturday at 7 pm, and Sunday at 2 pm. The pair of one act plays, Krapp’s Last Tape by Samuel Beckett and The Human Voice by Jean Cocteau, lesser known works by the celebrated writers, were chosen as the first post-pandemic show by the production team.
“These are shows that Brian and Jenie have always wanted to do,” noted Macey. “When we began rehearsals in late April we weren’t even sure we could open. And after only six weeks of rehearsal? The fact that there’s anything up on that stage is essentially a miracle, and it’s because a small group of very dedicated people gave their time and talent to make something despite the odds. When we started this thing, we didn’t know that was going to happen. We did it anyway.”
“The biggest uncertainty was how well the show would be received,” wrote Kim Vogel, who runs sound for the show, “and how many people would feel comfortable coming. We were prepared for maximum audience safety and the decision was made to maintain a high degree of caution for this show’s run despite the CDC’s relaxation. We wanted people to feel comfortable and safe as we opened our doors after our long virtual run.”
Bernie Cecire was invited by producer Anne Moody to be Technical Director for the production. “A new hat for me,” noted Cecire. “I was basically in charge of getting the lighting and sound from concept to production—recruiting personnel and overseeing the creative process as needed.” Since (spoilers aside) the production relies on these technical elements, Cecire’s role was critical in maintaining the illusion that Schuth was indeed playing back vintage reel-to-reel tape, and Smith was struggling with a variable phone connection.
Another layer of support for the piece comes from musicians Joan Lowden, ukulele bass, and Alice Schuth, viola. “I enjoyed working with Alice to select the right music to set the tone for each play—we play three Celtic fiddle tunes to open the Beckett, and two French standards during the set change to create the mood for the Cocteau.”
Smith, whose every line in The Human Voice is spoken into a phone, trying in many ways to hold a connection, wrote to social media contacts: “You should come see these two works. Brian is transformed into Krapp and you who know him will be astonished. These are two lesser-known works by two playwrights who definitely left their mark in the repertoire, but you likely won’t ever see these on a stage again.”
For his part, Schuth, a lover of Beckett since his teens, wrote of his script, “I still can’t quite believe I’m getting to do it. The play has a lot more facets to it now—in particular, while the memory of a love still strikes at my heart, the pathos is far more than that of a lost love, and Krapp is more complex than a man with sad memories.”