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Theatre Professor Directs Beckett/Albee Production


Theatre Professor Directs “Beckett/Albee” Production

Samuel Beckett and Edward Albee are two of Fordham Theatre Professor Lawrence Sacharow’s favorite playwrights of all time, so directing a bill of short plays written by both of them is nothing short of theatrical heaven for the Obie Award winner.

“Beckett/Albee” opened at the Century Center for the Performing Arts in Manhattan on Oct. 9 and has received rave reviews. New York Times theatre critic Ben Brantley said the twin billing “offers a fascinating glimpse into the essential similarities and differences between two of the 20th century’s most significant playwrights.”

Winner of the 1969 Nobel Prize in Literature, Beckett is perhaps best known for his forays into the Theatre of the Absurd, particularly in the plays “Waiting for Godot” and “Endgame.” Albee, also known for absurdist commentary, is perhaps best known for penning the volatile play “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?”

The project was born a year ago, when Sacharow saw actress Marian Seldes perform a monologue written by Beckett during a celebration of the playwright’s birthday. Thoroughly impressed with her performance, Sacharow got the idea of putting together a production of some of Beckett’s shorter plays. The idea soon grew to include the work of Albee, whose play “Counting the Ways” comprises the second half of “Beckett/Albee.” According to Sacharow, the two playwrights have a great deal in common and the merging of their works is highly appropriate.

Beckett and Albee’s themes of aging and death are similar, and both of them come from the same existential place of defining who you are by your actions and the choices you make,” said Sacharow, who also serves as the director of Fordham’s Theatre Program. “They both create character and story through an incredible sense of rhythm and language. They are truly great poets of the theatre who pack a tremendous amount of meaning into very few words.”

In the show, Seldes performs the Beckett plays “Not I,” a stream-of-conscious monologue delivered by a disembodied mouth, and “Footfalls,” the story of a daughter recalling the death of her mother. Veteran Broadway actor Brian Murray portrays an old man near death in Beckett’s “A Piece of Monologue.” The two actors team up for Albee's “Counting the Ways,” which is about a husband and wife who humorously ponder the meaning of life.

According to Sacharow, Seldes and Murray were a perfect match for the material.

“Working with Marian and Brian, actors at the peak of their talent, is a profound experience,” said Sacharow. “It is a gift to work with them while also working with some of Beckett and Albee’s greatest material.”

Directing the off-Broadway show is familiar territory for Sacharow, who has been honored with the Edward Albee Last Frontier Directing Award for lifetime achievement. In 1994, he received the Lucille Lortel award for Outstanding Direction of Albee’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play Three Tall Women, which also starred Seldes. All in all, Sacharow has directed approximately 60 regional and off-Broadway plays. He said that working as a professional director once a year is not only rewarding for him personally, but also an experience that significantly enriches his classroom.

“What’s fascinating about both teaching and directing professionally is that whether I’m working in the classroom with students or working in a theatre with professionals, the process is the same,” said Sacharow. “You’re always uncovering the truth of the text and it’s enormously helpful to be able to share with students how a professional actor is addressing the complexity of a play.”

— Ryan Thompson

Marian Seldes and Brian Murray, costar in Beckett/Albee, a producuion featuring Edward Albee’s one-act play "Counting the Ways" and three Samuel Beckett monologues ("Not I," "Footfalls" and "A Piece of Monologue"). The production is directed by Lawrence Sacharow, director of the Fordham Theatre Program, who previously directed Albee's Pulitzer Prize-winning play “Three Tall Women.”

Photo by Carol Rosegg

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