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'Fat Beckett' goes around the playwright's restrictions

| Thursday, Dec. 1, 2011
Gab Cody and Rita Reis star in Quantum Theatre's "Fat Beckett."

If playwright Samuel Beckett hadn't barred women from performing "Waiting for Godot," Rita Reis and Gab Cody might not have written "Fat Beckett."

Beckett insisted producers and artists perform his plays exactly as he had written them, a requirement that those who manage his estate continue to enforce.

In 1988, the year before he died, Beckett successfully brought legal action against a Dutch theater company that planned to perform "Waiting for Godot" with an all-female cast. Though some courts have since allowed similarly cast productions to proceed, the lawyers for Beckett's estate continue to make all possible attempts to prevent any deviation from Beckett's original words, actions and casting.

Intrigued by Beckett's opposition, Cody and Reis decided to remake his play from their own viewpoint.

"We had worked on Beckett monologues and it was interesting to have that structure of repetition, absurdism, existentialism, bilingualism, logic and clowning and to see them through our perspective," Reis says. "The bilingualism and the idea of having the stimulus of Beckett to create a piece was very engaging."

The world of Beckett's "Waiting for Godot" was stark and spare -- a country road, a tree, a low mound.

Cody and Reis decided to approach it from a female perspective.

"Our world is a world of abundance, roundness, femaleness," Reis says.

The result, "Fat Beckett," begins performances tonight as a Quantum Theatre production in the Old Schoolhouse, a former school building in Lawrenceville.

"To be honest, we have dreamt of this site," says Sam Turich, who is directing the production. "It is unoccupied and has fallen on hard times, or as Gabe said, "It would take a team of scenic artists years to create the look that it has gotten from water damage, fire damage and removals (of infrastructure)."

"There's a sense of confinement and immensity," Reis says.

"It's intimate and vast -- like a relationship with a woman," Cody says.

The two women will perform the piece.

According to Cody, it is the story of two women, Sophie and Kiki, trapped in an existential everywhere.

But, instead of waiting by the crossroads as Vladimir and Estragon do in "Waiting for Godot," Kiki and Sophie set out, not to look for Godot, but their lost goat, Biquette.

"Our understanding of what it means to be women had us traveling, not waiting," Reis says. "It's essentially female. They wouldn't wait. They would go."

As they do, they fight, they love, they separate, unite and, on occasion, become different characters.

While travelling, Kiki and Sophie often switching between French, English and Portuguese. No translators or subtitles are necessary, Reis promises.

The play's abundant clowning and physicality will aid in understanding, she says. Moreover passages are sometimes repeated in more than one language.

Cody and Reis called their play "Fat Beckett," using fat as a reference to an old French word for "silly" as a promise of the play's abundant comedy.

"Beckett is highly comic. But sometimes it's missed if you just read it," Cody says. "All in all, it is a hilarious play on language and life."

Additional Information:

'Fat Beckett'

Produced by: Quantum Theatre

When: Thursday through Dec. 18 at 8 p.m. Wednesdays through Saturdays and 7 p.m. Sundays

Admission: $35-$48, $18 for students with ID

Where: Old Schoolhouse, 4830 Hatfield St., Lawrenceville

Details: 888-718-4253 or website

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