May 21, 2012



 Photo: SF Playhouse Courtesy.
Rod Gnapp (Carmichael) is mad as hell - and he's going to blow you up


O.K. HERE’S THE DEAL. In a Hotel Room is a rugged leather faced guy who seems as if he is completely drained of any pep. He is just sitting on the edge of the bed looking at his left hand that is severed. Then all of a sudden the man gets up. He hears a noise in the closet of his room. He opens the door of the closet and shoots at someone or something. It only took two bullets to make it quiet in there. The man sits on the edge of the bed again, just like nothing happened.

Christopher Walken, the actor, played the one-handed creepy guy (in New York) who is looking for his hand. When he was seventeen some young Hillbillies from the other side of the tracks grabbed the young man. A Train was coming down the track – the whistle was blowing as the hillbillies held the young guys hand on the railing. He lost his left hand.

The Author Martin McDonagh is known for his macabre stories. On the SF Playhouse stage we have Rod Gnapp as the creepy sinister guy. And Carmichael (Gnapp) has never forgotten his, forever-lost hand. But he is still looking. So much so that he buys hands from corpse dealers in Alleys and from young kids that try to sell a hand to the lonely Carmichael. He says: “All I want is my hand. Those damn hillbillies even had the nerve to wave my own hand at me. Can you believe it? -- They waved my own hand at me.”

In his plain hotel room, Carmichael runs across a couple of scammers. They are trying to sell him a black man’s hand. Tsk, Tsk! They made a huge mistake. Carmichael who is white, is enraged – so he ties them to the radiator. Then he lights a candle in the top of a Gasoline Can. He leaves – and they are trapped. “The candle will only last about 45 minutes, he tells them. Then – if you don’t find my hand – you’re going to blow up” – he furiously sez.”

This play is so kinky (and also fantastically funny) – the racist remarks between Carmichael and the Black kid and his White Girlfriend are extremely funny.  Also on the stage is one of the funniest deadpan and creepy actors I have ever seen. His name is Alex Hurt and he is terrific. Then we have Rod Gnapp – surely the most sensational actor in the world. And of course we had to let Daveed Diggs and Melissa Quine get free from the Radiator. So – you see, we didn’t lose that benefit. They are still alive. And the shot in the closet – Well, you’ll just have to figure that one out yourself. I will tell you this though. These sensational actors are the best acting ensemble that I have seen in decades.

Enjoy this irresistible classic thriller at the San Francisco Playhouse.

RATING: FOUR GLASSES OF CHAMPAGNE!!!! (highest rating) –trademarked-

(((Lee Hartgrave has contributed many articles to the San Francisco Chronicle Sunday Datebook and he produced and hosted a long-running Arts Segment on PBS KQED)))


It’s not secret. Beckett’s plays are dreary. That doesn’t mean that they aren’t any good – but they do put you in the mood to jump off the Golden Gate Bridge.

The Curtain goes up and we see two small windows high up on the walls. Curtains cover the windows. Two ashbins are covered with sheets. In the center of the room there is a chair that is also covered with an old sheet. Under the sheet is “Hamm”. Clov  has many motionless moments. Finally he takes a ladder and climbs up to the Windows to let some light come in.

Yes, there are many yawns and pauses in Becketts plays. Expect sparse talk. Hamm (Bill Irwin), the grouchy old bastard sits and groans. He never gets up – he depends on Clov(the servant) to do everything for him. Clov removes Hamm’s sheet. Hamm yawns, takes off his glasses, wipes them and then puts them back on. Not too exciting – but the mystery of all this does keep your interest.

Hamm says to Clov – “You pollute the air!” There is another long pause. Hamm says to Clov(Nick Gabriel) – “Get me ready, I’m going to bed.” Clov answers – “I’ve just got up”. O.K. – I think you get the drift. Their conversation, which is almost non-existent – makes you want to push the old nasty fart right out of his chair. And so it goes. On and on and on.

Hamm’s elderly parents are in the ashbins, where they are confined. Nagg says, “Kiss Me!” Nell: - “We can’t”. Why? - Because their heads fail to meet. They are close, but not close enough.

Hamm takes lots of painkillers. I wish that he had given me some. In the small Beckett play before Endgame is “Play” that stars Annie Purcell, Anthony Fusco and Rene Augesen. There dead - Ya know! Yep, they must be dead because they seem to be trapped in huge funeral Urns. The characters bicker back and forth. It reminds a little of “No Exit”. Well, you wouldn’t want to miss this absurdist clipped conversation, would you? Can we put a lid on the urns? However, there is great atmosphere on the stage.

Love this comment: “Can there be misery loftier than mine?” No Mr. Beckett – there can’t be.

The sets are a wonder. Sparse, but fascinating. The dreary look keeps you in a dreamy state – and the acting is absolutely amazing. Their timing is perfection. And as was said in Endgame – “I haven’t suffered too much!”

THE ACTORS IN ‘PLAY’ are Rene Augesin, Anthony Fusco and Annie Purcell. In ‘Play’ they taunt us with a primal feeling of death.

THE ACTORS OF ‘ENDGAME’ ARE: - Nick Gabriel, Giles Havergal, Bill Irwin and Barbara Oliver. I marvel at their genius --
and, the knockout directing, by Carey Perloff. 


Hamm and Clov in Beckett play
Photo- Kevin Berne  


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