Closed 1h 30m
On Beckett
Chelsea
87

On Beckett NYC Reviews and Tickets

87%
(63 Reviews)
Positive
100%
Mixed
0%
Negative
0%
Members say
Great acting, Absorbing, Intelligent, Clever, Funny

About the Show

Tony Award-winner and MacArthur Fellow Bill Irwin explores his relationship with the work of Samuel Beckett in this New York premiere solo show presented by Irish Repertory Theatre.

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Member Reviews (63)

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75
Intelligent, Great acting, Didactic, Untraditional format, Best for beckett fans

See it if you love Beckett and/or Irwin. BI is a terrific actor, and the intellectual crowd cheers for him. There are nuggets of wit and wisdom.

Don't see it if you want an absorbing 90 mins of theater, not a lecture. BI does a gr job w SB's diff words, but this is not a play. It helps to know Godot. Read more

90
Clever, Profound, Thought-provoking, Funny, Delightful

See it if Bill Irwin as actor, clown, and Beckett aficionado. Challenging Beckett excerpts and analysis mixed with hilarious clowning. A treat!

Don't see it if You are not interested in a literary challenge. You don’t enjoy physical comedy. This is performance art, without a traditional narrative.

Critic Reviews (22)

October 3rd, 2018

“The show illuminates the notoriously opaque writings of Beckett without ever betraying their ineffable heart. In like manner, Irwin opens up his bag of performer’s tricks and even spills them out for our inspection...A replete bill of fare, filled with perceptive and appealingly humble observations on bringing Beckett’s language to life...The toil, according to Beckett, may be tedious and futile. But Mr. Irwin also gives us the pure, energizing joy in the playing of it."
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October 3rd, 2018

"The impression is of an intimate but very careful love...This is Beckett-olatry, and his reverence sometimes keeps a lid on the emotion of the material...In this generous, sweet-spirited lecture, then, we can’t quite reach the mental space where Beckett’s mystery operates. Yet Irwin points to it and, with incredible craft, offers a tantalizing glimpse of performances yet to come. If he doesn’t quite give us Beckett’s cold darkness, at least he offers us the warmth of a votive flame.”
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October 3rd, 2018

“Utterly delightful...With candor and poignancy, Irwin pulls back the curtain on the process of performing Beckett’s ‘famously difficult’ texts. Infinitely expressive body, bowler hat, and baggy pants are his primary tools. With them, he cracks Beckett open and invites us to step inside...Irwin is like a magician revealing how the trick is done — and somehow rendering it all the more magical...A delicious piece of theater. Picture a top-notch TED Talk crossed with a clown show...Deeply funny.”
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October 3rd, 2018

"Irwin's masterful renditions, which he infuses with vaudevillian shtick and hilarious clowning, make Beckett's words bloom not just with humor but with poignant emotion...Beckett's unending inquiry into the awareness of one's whereness, with all the potentially terrifying existential questions that such an investigation can raise, has never seemed more approachable than in Irwin's thought-provoking one-man show...‘On Beckett’ is master class on and by a master. Shouldn't be missed.”
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October 17th, 2018

“’On Beckett’ has its graceful moments, but the trouble with Beckett is that you have to take him as you find him, or not at all. His works defy explanation and resist being taken out of context...Irwin comes across as a gushing fan. His enthusiasm is laudable, infectious, but it does little for one's appreciation of Beckett...Enjoyable more for its star than its subject, ‘On Beckett’ is probably the sweetest tribute...Whether that is a good thing or not is debatable, but Irwin remains a pleasure."
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October 4th, 2018

"Thoroughly enjoyable...At a tight 90-minutes it's just the right length, allowing audiences the time to immerse themselves in Beckett's existentialist musings without becoming mentally overloaded by his syntax and subtext...Irwin gives a master class in both performing and interpreting Beckett that young actors and lovers of literature won't want to miss."
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October 3rd, 2018

“The multi-tasking Irish-American artist offers an homage to his visionary idol that is both deeply personal and defiantly, even exuberantly accessible...Irwin’s talents in the latter capacity contribute greatly to the energy and humor abundant in ‘On Beckett’...Irwin’s fluid, witty physicality and evocative facial expressions lend character and color to all his readings, not to mention a brief, hilarious dance segment.”
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October 18th, 2018

"With wit, humility, and just the right amount of awe, Bill Irwin's 'On Beckett' pays tribute to the greatest Irish author in the history of France. Tackling this paradox and other much more profound ones, the actor, director, writer and clown wears all of his theatrical hats to intellectually and emotionally untangle some well-chosen snippets of Samuel Beckett's forbidding canon, including a few key passages from that head-scratching tragicomedy 'Waiting for Godot'"
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October 6th, 2018

“A dazzling feat...Without talking to us, or pulling anybody out of their seat, he makes the audience very much a part of the action, which is one of the most satisfying things any theatre experience can provide...Irwin’s expressivity in both body and voice expose graceful movements of immaculately-timed specificity. All that, along with the personal nature of Irwin’s insights, won my heart and moved me by the end of this wonderful evening."
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October 5th, 2018

“Part lecture, part performance, part clowning...A master class on the absurdist works of Samuel Beckett...It not only shakes out Beckett's enigmatic craft but reveals the impact that he has had on Irwin's artistic life...It's hard to single out a best moment...’On Beckett’ sees Irwin scoring time and again as he celebrates his deep artistic bond...Without diluting any of his art, he casts a new light on it and infuses it with his own American voice. And that alone deserves a hallelujah.”
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October 9th, 2018

“'On Beckett,' with the marvelous Bill Irwin, is, as the title suggests, a talk and a performance. With a bit of tweaking it could be a TED Talk. And a mighty good one...Irwin is not only earnest, he is mercurial. A dollop of him performing goes a long way in explaining Beckett...I know more than I did about Samuel Beckett – more than I even knew I could know. But most of all I got to spend 85 minutes with Bill Irwin, which may be the true gift in all of this.”
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October 26th, 2018

"Bill Irwin...Always excellent and engaging, utilizing his skill as a clown to drive a character in deep. He has that kind of face and presence. And every time it’s a master class...He connects to the vaudevillian voice, it’s stand alone strength, and shares his fascination most sweetly...He shrinks larger than life when he engages in the text, and with cold hands and a warm heart, he deepens our knowledge and appreciation of Beckett, Irwin, and a clown that just can’t stop exploring."
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T
October 3rd, 2018

“Part performance, part graduate school lecture, part predilections on whether Beckett’s writing is ‘natural clown territory,’ and part perusal of the importance of culture and language – all presented with perfection and seemingly unbridled passion by Irwin...One of the most profound experiments to be conducted on an off-Broadway stage...This is a performance needed to be seen, to be ingested, to be struggled with.”
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October 13th, 2018

He's such a magnetic, charming, informative, and accessible personality, it's a wonder 'On Beckett'…isn't called 'Bill Irwin on Beckett'…Being the unusual player that he is,…much of his approach derives from his joy in clowning…Watching him sink and rise behind the lectern as if on a mechanical lift is only one of the visual plums he provides…Irwin rivets our attention by somehow transforming opaque, largely incomprehensible material into expressive streams of living text."
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October 15th, 2018

“Irwin is not only a great clown but he has an inquiring mind as well and he puts both to excellent use...’On Beckett’ lasts one hour and 30 minutes, which may prove to be among the most delightful time periods you have spent. Irwin is dazzlingly at the height of his skills. His physical clowning, wit, and agile use of props such as hats and costumes are a joy to behold...Seeing Irwin may make you want to explore Beckett further. It may also make you want to long for more of Irwin.”
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October 13th, 2018

"Bill Irwin is a genius...If you’re hesitating, you should put your worries aside and go. Irwin won me over within the first five minutes with his deep knowledge of Beckett’s work...For 80 minutes, he makes us almost believe that we can plumb the depths of Beckett’s recondite musings...It’s a master class in acting and as apt an encapsulation of Beckett’s mind as you’re likely to find outside a college classroom. Only it’s far, far more enjoyable. If you're a theater lover, you shouldn't miss it."
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October 16th, 2018

"'This is like practicing scales,' Irwin says, pulling up his oversized pants and effortlessly slouching into his schlemiel posture. I could listen to it all day."
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B
October 3rd, 2018

“Irwin, with his mastery of the physical, clownish gesture and the musical lines of language presents a moving portrait of selections from Samuel Beckett’s work...Irwin is brilliant as he performs sections of ‘Texts for Nothing’. Not for nothing does Irwin shape his words into musical lines full of arcs, pauses, gasps and gutturals...The evening is delightful...Irwin is very funny indeed and presents a captivating evening of theater.”
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January 15th, 2017
For a previous production

"A fascinating lecture on Beckett...It was a pleasure to both listen to and watch this Tony-winning actor and veteran clown performer...This artist is somewhere between Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton with a little of Steve Martin thrown in for good measure...The consummate artist...does Pozzo's disturbing soliloquy from 'Waiting for Godot' with a rope around his neck. It's a moment to remember...I have a new appreciation of Samuel Beckett's words thanks to this skillful actor."
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January 13th, 2017
For a previous production

"Part actor’s showcase, part scholarly lecture, this chatty work-in-progress is an intriguing tour through the Beckett canon. Irwin is clearly still refining the piece, which lacks definition, but it’s a pleasure to watch the funnyman at work...It’s quite touching to watch him share his lifelong affinity for a writer usually feared and revered in equal proportions...When the virtuoso comedian burrows down into the language of Beckett, however, the piece utterly transcends its limitations."
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January 12th, 2017
For a previous production

"It’s a pleasure to watch Bill Irwin do anything, even just play around onstage sans much direction...His voice also astonishes. With each new phrase, he pivots to a new register, plumbing the depths and peaks of his range...Which is also the show’s central problem. Irwin makes bold choices, a great, great deal of them, but many of them lack a clear justification...'On Beckett' might be even stronger if Irwin made a stronger commitment to his own distinctive choices."
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S
January 14th, 2017
For a previous production

"Irwin uses his clowning techniques to portray Beckett’s confused, ill-at-ease, physically uncomfortable, restless, never-at-home-in-this-or-any-other-realm everymen with humor, wisdom, and compassion...A wonderful evening of theatrical enlightenment. Irwin is smart and knowledgeable and conveys his experiences with enthusiasm and insight...He’s explaining why this material excites him, why it energizes him as an actor, and why it’s more important and relevant than ever."
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