The Tech - Online EditionMIT's oldest and largest
newspaper & the first
newspaper published
on the web
Boston Weather: 41.0°F | Overcast

Ulysses Productions excels in interpretation of enigmatic works


Written by Samuel Beckett.

Directed by Kevin Cunningham '84.

Starring Wendy Leigh '90,

Joel Gluck '86, and Paul Cox.



Written by Sam Shepard.

Directed by Kevin Cunningham '84.

Starring Nikos Katis, Andrew

Hernon, Jeff Robinson, Susan

Veronica Trachta, Seth Kanor,

and Shae D'lyn Wood.


At the Lyric Stage, 54 Charles

Street, Boston, through July 15.

Produced by Ulysses Productions Ltd.


UULYSSES PRODUCTIONS IS A YOUNG theater company with deep MIT roots; many of its members are alumni of Dramashop or the Shakespeare Ensemble. Perhaps this is why Ulysses has kicked off its summer season with two plays about suicide. In Samuel Beckett's Theatre II, a lonely barge-worker (Paul Cox) is contemplating suicide, and two mysterious guests (Joel Gluck '86 and Wendy Leigh '90) search for a reason why he shouldn't. In Sam Shepard's Suicide in B Flat, a legendary jazz player (Seth Kanor) is found dead, and the detectives investigating the case (Nikos Katis, Andrew Hernon) are drawn into the aura of the occult which surrounds his disappearance.

Theatre II opens with Cox's character, the potential suicide, poised and rigid before a 25th-story window. While he stands, two business-suited visitors, Bertrand (Leigh) and Morvan (Gluck), discuss his life. Morvan has a briefcase full of testimony about the other man's life and personality, neatly filed by subject. Prodded by Bertrand, he reads from these dossiers, seeking a reason for the man to live.

Theatre II's cast excels in its interpretation of Beckett's enigmatic work, which scarcely gives any clue why two business-suited visitors discuss whether one lonely man has a reason to live. Lesser actors might have copped out by portraying them as social workers, police officers, or disinterested philosophers, but Leigh and Gluck make their characters vivid while keeping their role mysterious. The events in the play seem real, but fit neither an obvious plot nor a realist's "slice of life."

Beckett's introverted brooding is followed by Sam Shepard's extroverted raving. Pablo (Katis) and Louis (Hernon) seek clues about Niles Morris, an apparently dead jazz musician (Kanor). As Suicide in B Flat opens, though, the detectives are clueless. Louis feels compelled to cut his throat with a butcher knife. Niles appears on the scene, unnoticed by all, followed by a young companion, Paullette (Shae D'lyn Wood). Niles dresses up as Pecos Bill and Paullette shoots him with an arrow. From there, the story gets weird.

At a few points, the players lose momentum, and their speeches degenerate into mere bombast. At its best moments, though, watching Suicide in B Flat is like reading Zippy the Pinhead while on LSD. I didn't understand it, but I enjoyed it.