“5 By Beckett” Presented by Sound Theatre Company

Beckett, like fois gras, is a refined taste, often savored in small bites by the cognoscenti, but a little off-putting in large doses and to those who haven’t been exposed to it. And so it is with this production directed by Teresa Thuman and Andrew McGinn.Samuel Beckett Art by Kathryn Rathke

It begins with two pantomime pieces. Both address the frustration, tediousness, and even the futility of human life. In “Act Without Words I” Ken Michels plays a man, alone in a hot desert where he is continuously tantalized. Neither shade nor water is attainable, though they dangle just out of his reach. He tries again and again to grab them, never successfully. The tools he’s been given prove frustrating to use, and eventually he gives up. It’s only then that the water and shade become accessible. Too late! Man’s fate! Michels as everyman brings both humor and pathos to the role.

In “Act Without Words II” two large sacks and a pile of clothes sit on the empty stage. But then a long prod comes out of the wings and pokes at the nearest sack. The sack tremble, shakes and from it emerges a rather disorganized man (Jon Clark) who then goes through the rituals of daily life before he returns to his sack. All is still until the prod pokes at the other sack. The man who emerges (Ken Michels) is more organized than that the first man. He too goes through the rituals of daily life, but in a much more determined manner, before returning to his sack. The actors provide a good contrast to one another, and again here make clear the humor and pathos of human existence.

The three other pieces offer similar examinations of life’s frustrations and demands. They provide moments of wry humor as they examine the sad reality of the human condition. You can’t help thinking of Chaplin’s “Little Tramp” or some of Buster Keaton’s routines that mix the funny with the dark. Unfortunately, these works go on too long, and seem to tediously drag out the action or lack thereof.

It’s not the fault of the actors. John Clark, Jose Amador, Robert Bergin, and Ashley Banker nicely round out the cast. Yet the full production didn’t work well. For me, the mistake was including all of these works in the same presentation. It’s too much of a good thing. I felt like the kid on Halloween who overloaded on candy. Here, I overloaded on Beckett.

Through Nov. 9 at the Eulalie Scandiuzzi Space at ACT, 700 Union St., Seattle, (206-292-7676 or www.acttheatre.org).

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