She could be Miss Havisham. This ageless ghost of a woman with long, scraggly gray hair, dressed in a tattered, once-elegant gown, shuffling — noisily, rhythmically — back and forth across a bare floor in the growing dark. But Miss Havisham is a Dickens character and a villain, while May (Holly Twyford), the woman we see onstage, is a Samuel Beckett character and a leading lady. And while Miss Havisham is the eternal spurned bride, May is the eternal daughter. She has an elderly, bedridden mother who speaks in the tones of a cruel god (the voice of Kathleen Chalfant).
“Sounding Beckett,” which completes its short run at the Classic Stage Company on Sunday, is a far cry from “Waiting for Godot” or “Happy Days,” that playwright’s cheerfully absurdist midcentury tributes to the battle against despair. The three short plays that make up this program — they’re not usually presented together — were written in the last decades of Beckett’s life, the 1970s and ’80s, his minimalist period. Maybe it’s most accurate to think of this as extreme Beckett.
In “Footfalls” we learn that May has not left the house (literally) since her girlhood. Her mother chides her more than once, “Will you never have done — revolving it all in your mind?” And Beckett leaves it to us to fill in the blanks about what is torturing her.
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