No entertainment genius has yet made a Samuel Beckett pinball machine – I imagine a bleak palette, faulty pinballs and a high score list that says GODOT GODOT GODOT. But those eager for a Beckett brand extension can instead come to New York University’s Skirball Center for “Cascando,” an adaptation of an early 1960s Beckett radio play. It comes courtesy of Pan Pan Theater, an Irish company with an indifferent approach to the classics.
Originally created in collaboration with the composer Marcel Mihalovici, “Cascando” is intended to be a passive audio experience. But this “Cascando”, directed by Gavin Quinn and designed by Aedin Cosgrove, adds a participatory element.
Upon arrival, each cardholder is dressed in a black hooded robe and is presented with headphones. Detached on La Guardia Place, a quiet street adjacent to Washington Square Park in Manhattan, participants begin a single walk around and through the adjacent blocks. As they walk, they listen to the lyrics, here prerecorded by Andrew Bennett and Daniel Reardon.
Dressed up as a fashionable druid, a goth garden gnome, wandering through the village is a lot of fun. But there are no stops along the way, no interactions, no activations. The choreography – here and there a sharp turn – is minimal. At one point, with almost breathless excitement, I wondered if we should sit down. We didn’t sit.
While it makes sense to come across Beckett’s text through headphones – there are references everywhere to a story that only exists in one’s head – the walk alone-together doesn’t lighten or stimulate the text, which, like so much of Beckett’s work, is heavy. repetition and ellipses. On the rainy sidewalk, what slipped.
In another city, at a different time, a show like “Cascando” could at least have graced street life. But the quintessential New York street life is already a variety of theatre, druids or not. As we drove back into the park, I saw a group of skateboarders looking at us from head to toe. We had become part of their story, I thought for a moment, part of their experience. Then they shrugged and continued their conversation. Just another Wednesday in the village, bro.
Strange things: the experience
Until August 21 at Duggal Greenhouse, Brooklyn; aliens-experience.com. Duration: 45 minutes before the show, then mixing.
Through July 3 at NYU Skirball, Manhattan; nyuskirball.org. Running time: 30 minutes.