Fragments Leaves Beckett in Pieces

Peter Brook and Marie-Hélène Estienne fall short with their shorts

Here, though, the brooder expresses his exasperation at God’s absence with a wheezy little sigh—his existential sadness is scruffy-wuffy cartoon petulance. The motto of Brook’s version is something like: Some folks are lovably cranky, and some people are sprightly and sunny! And Brook can’t resist tweaking the ending: During his final bout of divine supplication, grumpy suddenly perks up, a brief smile lighting his face—Godot arrives once again.

Whatever else you might say about it, Come and Go—another late play, and the final piece on the bill—is not a Monty Python-esque sketch about men dressed up as funny old ladies being bitchy to each other. The play’s reunion of three former schoolmates, now elderly, in the place where they used to play as children—still cruel and kind to each other in the same ways they were decades before—is an eerie parable about the ways time does and doesn’t change us, for worse and better. But with the two male members of the company in biddy-drag, and Hunter lolling her eyes and acting the geezer, we get a rest-home sequel to Mean Girls, all the play’s poignancies lost amid mugging and bargain-basement laughs.

In his program note, Brook praises Beckett as a dauntless artist who peered into the “filthy abyss of human existence” while rejecting “pious consolations” in his “constant, aching search for meaning." Too bad Brook and his collaborators weren’t equally brave—instead, they’ve turned their backs on the hard-won results of Beckett’s agonizing search to whip up an evening of neutered, fluffy ersatz Beckett, riddled with pious consolations and artistic shortcuts. No one who loves the work of theater’s most uncompromising mind should have to stomach this shoddily made and startlingly amateurish production.

Sunny vs. cranky: Marcello Magni
Bruce Cohen Group
Sunny vs. cranky: Marcello Magni


Fragments Directed by Peter Brook and Marie-Helene Estienne
Baryshnikov Art Center
450 West 37th Street

If Peter Brook’s name wasn’t on it, it’s unlikely Fragments would be anywhere near New York at all.

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