Review: Beckett’s Absurdist House of Horrors, in Hell’s Kitchen

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From left, Michèle Forbes, Joan Davis and Bríd Ní Neachtain perform Samuel Beckett’s “Come and Go.”

Credit
Emon Hassan for The New York Times

Cross a courtyard, slip into a building, climb a flight of stairs, slink down a corridor and you’ll find yourself in a high-modernist haunted house. Lips scream here, hands clench, a woman in a gray peignoir walks up and down, a restive ghost. These refined frights are yours courtesy of “Beckett in the City: The Women Speak,” a strikingly acted and indifferently site-specific presentation of four Samuel Beckett shorts, presented by Ireland’s Company SJ and the Irish Arts Center.

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Joan Davis during Beckett’s “Rockaby.”

Credit
Emon Hassan for The New York Times

After gathering at the arts center, the audience treks on foot to a “secret location” nearby. The one-acts are scattered among three sepulchral rooms, and attendants with flashlights guide you from one to the next. Under Sarah Jane Scaife’s direction, Bríd Ní Neachtain performs “Not I,” Michèle Forbes “Footfalls,” Joan Davis “Rockaby.” Then all three women gather for “Come and Go.” In between the performances, video sequences show the women looking somber inside the rooms and stairwells of a different dilapidated building, presumably somewhere in Dublin where the play was first produced.

Each Beckett short is a mordant miniature of a woman’s life, mostly unlived. All of the pieces restrict a woman in some way, reducing her to a gabbling mouth or a pair of creeping feet or a body entombed in a rocking chair. Even in “Come and Go,” the gentlest of the short plays, the women’s bodies are hidden beneath sacklike coats, their…

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