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‘A lonesome memory’: Adobe Theater takes on playwright Samuel Beckett’s one-man play ‘Krapp’s Last Tape’

Philip J. Shortell stars in “Krapp’s Last Tape.”

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — “Krapp’s Last Tape” unspools a shattering drama from the monologue of a 69-year-old man playing back the autobiographical tape he recorded on his 39th birthday.

The Adobe Theater will stream what is considered one of Nobel Prize winner Samuel Beckett’s finest works at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 14, Friday, Jan. 15 and Saturday, Jan. 16 and at 2 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 17 at adobetheater.org, 898-9222. Tickets are $10.25.

Albuquerque actor/directors James Cady and Philip J. Shortell will alternate performances in this one-man play.

Krapp hauls out his old tape recorder and listens to his much-younger self. He starts to make a new recording commenting on the years of his existence.

“I don’t have the strength for ‘(King) Lear,’ so when an actor gets old he goes to ‘Krapp,’ ” Cady said.

“It’s not a comedy – far from it,” he continued. “It’s a lonesome memory of a man who’s in his dying days on his birthday. Every year he makes a tape. He’s so befuddled he can hardly play it. He lies awake in a dark room with one light and a tape recorder.”

James Cady stars in “Krapp’s Last Tape.”

Krapp is scathing in his assessment of his 39-year-old self, saying he’s glad to see the back of him.

Throughout the play, Krapp reminisces about the women he turned away.

“He couldn’t accept love,” Cady said.

Krapp is loveless, alienated and in the dark with only his younger self on tape for companionship.

He once dreamed of becoming a writer, but he sold just 17 books. His sex life has been reduced to periodic visits by an old prostitute.

“The guy’s a total failure,” Cady said. “It’s like a barbershop mirror looking into the infinity of memory.”

Along the way, Krapp denies his spoken memories and dissociates, Cady continued, “until he gets to the one great love in his life that he rejected.”

Whereas the younger Krapp talks about the “fire in me,” the tired old man who sits listening is simply “burning to be gone.”

Written in 1958, this classic Beckett play has lured actors such as John Hurt, Brian Dennehy, Michael Gambon and even the playwright Harold Pinter to the stage.

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