Volume 76, Number 24 | November 1 - 7, 2006

Villager Theater Review

At ‘Beckett Below,’ four one-acts come out of their shell

Amy May
Eve Hartmann and Tim Lee, co-producers of “Beckett Below”

By JERRY TALLMER

Samuel Beckett would certainly have felt some sort of affinity with any theater company that calls itself ghostcrab, lower-case g if you please. Still, it isn’t easy to get permission, 17 years after his death, to stage any of the works of the greatest playwright of our lifetime, much less four short Becketts on the same bill.

How do you go about getting that permission?

“You ask, nicely,” said ghostcrab Eve Hartmann, “and then they” — the administrators of the Beckett estate — “send you a paper saying: ‘Sign this — and we’ll murder your children if you change anything at all in the plays as written.’  ”

“I think they use the word ruin,”  said ghostcrab Tim Lee, “as in ‘We will ruin you if you change one word.’  ”

Neither Eve Hartmann, who will direct “Footfalls,” nor Tim Lee, who will direct “That Time,” would dream of changing one word — “but amongst these very strict rules,” she said,  “there’s a lot of room” for how you go about things — in voice, in motion, and — of course — in silences.

The other two pieces on the “Beckett Below” quadruple bill are “Act Without Words: II,” which literally has no words at all and will be directed by choreographer-dancer Ariane Anthony, and “Play”  (to be directed by Peter A. Campbell) in which the heads of the three principals in a marital mess project from urns, with each speaking only when his or her face is lit by flashlight.

“So the man with the flashlight is pretty much the most important person in the show,” said ghost crab-in-chief Tim Lee, who founded that company in 2001. “We call the guy ‘Lights,’ but his name is Gavin Starr Kendall.”

Why “Beckett Below”?

“Because it’s in a basement space on St. Mark’s Place, between First Avenue and Avenue A, closest to First Avenue. Forty-six seats. Next to a tattoo parlor. You can see the plays and get your Beckett tattoo afterward. “I CAN’T GO ON. I’LL GO ON.’  ”

Why ghostcrab?

“Because I’m originally from Bermuda,” said Tim Lee, who was born there August 20, 1975, the son of a dealer in antique maps. “The ghosts are a species of white translucent crabs — nocturnal, non-dangerous little creatures — that surface on the beach at night. If you look at the beach at night it’s all translucent and moving.

“I wanted to start a theater that was evocative of that — stubborn, nocturnal, in motion, with a certain grace and beauty. This is the fourth ghostcrab production. The last previous one was ‘Waiting for Godot’ at the Little Theater in New Haven.”

Eve Hartmann, attractive and not shy, was born in Baltimore on November 12, 1971, but grew up in Chicago. Her father is a psychiatrist. “I had him read all four of these plays.”  And his verdict? “ ‘They are dark.’” When she directed Moliere’s “Imaginary Invalid” followed by Beckett’s “Krapp’s Last Tape,” her father asked: “What’s your obsession with crazy old men?”

Tim Lee came out of Connecticut College with a BA in Theater and English, settled in Brooklyn, founded ghostcrab. Eve Hartmann, an NYU Tisch graduate with a BFA in Acting, has lived in the East Village for 15 years. 

He and she got talking together at a reading earlier this year, downstairs at the Drama Bookshop, of Beckett’s “Endgame.” That conversation spawned the “Beckett Below” that will be at Theatre Under St. Mark’s, 94 St. Mark’s Place, November 9-18.

The crabs are out. The sand is moving, glowing.

BECKETT BELOW. Ghostcrab presentation of four short plays by Samuel Beckett. Total running time: One hour.

The actors:  Cedric Neugebauer, Jack Seal, Molly Powell, Ellen Maddow, Amanda Boekelheide, David A, Gordon, Milt Angelopoulos. The directors: Ariane Anthony, Peter A. Campbell, Eve Hartmann, Tim Lee. November 9-18 at Theatre Under St. Mark’s, 94 St. Mark’s Place, (212) 868-4444.

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