Krapp's Last Tape

Ben Miles Reviews - Theater

Krapp’s Last Tape is a one-act play by that enigmatic 20th century scribe Samuel Beckett. It has one actor onstage for less than an hour. During that nearly sixty minutes under the scrutiny of the limelight, the character, named Krapp, celebrates his 69th birthday by reviewing reel-to-reel audio recordings made throughout his adult life.

Cryptic to the point of being largely indecipherable, this 1958 script was written by Beckett with one actor in mind: Irishman Patrick Magee. In fact, Beckett was so specifically inspired by this particular performer that he initially titled the piece The Magee Monologue.

In the half-century since the show’s premiere, several notable thespians have tried their hand at embodying Krapp. Such theatrical luminaries as Rick Cluchey (of the San Quentin Drama Workshop in 1977), Brian Dennehy (at Chicago’s Goodman Theatre in 2010), and Michael Gambon (at Dublin’s Gate Theatre, in 2010) have had distinguished turns attempting to incarnate Krapp. Even that pause-privy playwright Harold Pinter had his turn as Krapp, in nine sold-out performances at Great Britain’s Royal Court Theatre in 2006.

So Cal theatergoers now have the opportunity to experience another acclaimed interpreter of Beckett strut his stuff as Mr. Krapp. Indeed, John Hurt first performed as Krapp in a 2001 television production. Since November of 2011, Hurt, under the direction of Michael Colgan, has reprised the role in a pre-Broadway run at the Shakespeare Theatre Company in Washington D.C., before moving on to a limited Broadway stint.

Currently, Hurt is on the boards at Culver City’s Kirk Douglas Theatre. Again, under Michael Colgan’s largely unhelpful direction, Krapp remains as frustratingly vague as any play one is likely to experience. Nevertheless, for aficionados of the actors' craft, it is intriguing – if not particularly satisfying – to see this able actor apply his ample skills of stagecraft to this mordant characterization.

Krapp’s Last Tape continues at the Kirk Douglas Theatre – 9820 Washington Boulevard, Culver City – through November 4. For reservations, dial (213) 972 – 7231. For online ticketing and further information, visit