“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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