“Charlie Rose” by Samuel Beckett: Watch Charlie Rose Meet Charlie Rose in a Comical Piece of Absurdist Theater

New York City couldn’t get enough of Ian McKel­lan and Patrick Stew­art when they appeared togeth­er in a cel­e­brat­ed 2013 revival of Samuel Beck­ett’s Wait­ing for Godot.

Five years ear­li­er, anoth­er high pro­file gent took a stab at the noto­ri­ous­ly avant-garde play­wright, and while the Inter­net took note, the same New York­ers who were des­tined to go ga ga for the adorable bowler hat­ted Brits bare­ly bat­ted a col­lec­tive eye.

Why was that?

Per­haps it’s because the ear­li­er project had a decid­ed­ly more down­town feel than the Broad­way pro­duc­tion star­ring McKel­lan and Stew­art. It was so exper­i­men­tal that its main play­er, jour­nal­ist and talk show host Char­lie Rose, a fix­ture of the New York social scene, didn’t even know he was per­form­ing in it. 

He didn’t have to. The whole thing was engi­neered by film­mak­er Andrew Fil­ip­pone Jr., in the spir­it of Beck­ett. 

By cut­ting togeth­er old footage using crowd-pleas­ing Par­ent Trap spe­cial effects, he made it pos­si­ble for Char­lie to have an absur­dist con­ver­sa­tion with him­self. It takes about 45 sec­onds to set­tle in to the prop­er sensibility—the top­ic is a bit 21st-cen­tu­ry and the famil­iar Char­lie Rose cred­its could’ve used a tweak—but once it gets going, it’s a ton of bizarre and dis­turb­ing fun.

The large table where Rose films his inter­views makes for as evoca­tive a set­ting as a bar­ren tree on a coun­try lane, a mound of earth, or a pair of garbage cans.

Beck­ett was nev­er one to shy from par­en­thet­i­cal instruc­tions, a prac­tice most play­wrights are taught to avoid on the the­o­ry that the actors should be allowed to dis­cov­er their char­ac­ters. Direc­tor Fil­ip­pone serves his muse well here, edit­ing in a host of non­ver­bal reac­tions so spe­cif­ic, they seem to be the direct embod­i­ment of some­thing writ­ten in the (non-exis­tent) script.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Conan O’Brien Plays Char­lie Rose, Talks Pres­i­den­tial His­to­ry with Edmund Mor­ris

Watch the Open­ing Cred­its of an Imag­i­nary 70s Cop Show Star­ring Samuel Beck­ett

When Samuel Beck­ett Drove Young André the Giant to School: A True Sto­ry

Ayun Hal­l­i­day is an author, illus­tra­tor, the­ater mak­er and Chief Pri­ma­tol­o­gist of the East Vil­lage Inky zine.  Her play Zam­boni Godot is open­ing in New York City in March 2017. Fol­low her @AyunHalliday.

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