By Scott Hartge
Playing at: The Den Theatre mainstage, 1329-1333 N. Milwaukee Ave. in Chicago’s Wicker Park neighborhood. Through April 4, 2015. www.The-Hypocrites.com
Basic storyline: The Hypocrites’ rendition of Samuel Beckett’s End Game observes the tired existence of Hamm, an elderly blind man who is unable to stand. He is accompanied by his servant, Clov, who is unable to sit, and his trash can-inhabiting parents, Nagg and Nell. In what appears to be a post-apocalyptic world, these four sad people are living out the rest of their lonely lives in a tiny, dust-covered, trash-ridden apartment. While the world outlook is bleak, the play offers a light-hearted portrayal of the cyclical and depressing day-to-day events these characters go through.
The play begins with Clov stiffly trudging into the cramped, dimly lit apartment. For what seems to be an eternity, Clov repeatedly gets his hand pinched by opening and closing a step ladder, a poor reminder that even little annoyances still exist in the most horrible of situations. He then awakens Hamm, who is quietly sleeping in the middle of the room, by removing a bloody handkerchief from his face. From this point forward, the play unravels into quick back-and-forth bickering between characters who question the lives they lead — with surprisingly hilarious results.
What stood out: End Game might be a depressing depiction of a potential future, but the dialogue between characters is both entertaining and thought-provoking. The actors display their undeniable talents through the use of lengthy monologues, and the set and makeup help capture their downtrodden existence. The walls may as well be painted with ash, since the previous coat of green is hardly visible, and the characters’ costumes and clownish makeup are cringe worthy (in a good way).
Final thoughts: While End Game requires a significant amount of active listening, it is a rewarding watch. It’s odd mix of sadness and dry humor provides a wholly unique and significant experience.