"All That Fall" at 59E59 Theatre, November 10, 2013
(Photo by Carol Rosegg)
was gray - the afternoon, the audience, and for the most part, the
somewhat starry cast, featuring Eileen Atkins and Michael Gambon,
arrives from London (mostly) in this minimally staged radio play by
Samuel Beckett, directed by Trevor Nunn.
being Beckett, is a bit nihilist, about an older woman of questionable
health making her way to meet her blind husband at the train station.
We shuffle along with Mrs. Rooney (Ms. Atkins) as she encounters a menu
of rural British characters, the dung peddler Christy (Ruairi Conaghan)
on his cart, the retired Mr. Tyler (Frank Grimes) on his bike, the Clerk
of the Racecourse Mr. Slocum (Trevor Cooper) in his car, each in
advancing means of transportation, but none speeding the dreary tale
along. The aptly named Miss Fitt (Catherine Cusack), a protestant
zealot gives Mrs Rooney the final bit of assistance upon arrival at the
After much consternation about the late
arrival of Mr. Rooney's (Mr. Gambon) train, he finally appears slightly
worse for wear, but tight-lipped about the cause of the delay. I won't
spoil the source, but there's an obscure plot moment near the end that
suggests his part in it.
Performances are generally
even, with Ms. Atkins bearing the majority of the spoken burden. Her
characterization is, as one would certainly expect, spot on, mumbling,
grumbling, beseeching and complaining in every interaction. Mr. Gambon
arrives prepared to deliver to a full Broadway house, filling every inch
of the theatre and then some. Despite this overbalance, he still turns
in a well-crafted performance. The supporting roles are capably
executed as well.
Mr. Nunn seems to have had little to
do given the strength of his leading couple (both on book), other than
lay out their traffic pattern and arrange the supporting roles around them. Paul Groothuis' sound design distracts as much as it adds, featuring dragging footfalls
for Mrs. Rooney that sound more like a spirit's presence in a mediocre
haunted house. The set, as it is, features suspended microphones which
go largely ignored in a black room.
Still Ms. Atkins
and Mr. Gambon are the justifiable draw, evoking the ennui, frustration
and anger of losing one's power in the world by remaining in it for so
This limited engagement of All That Fall runs through December 8. Find tickets here.