Samuel Beckett's Come and Go is a short play that encapsulates the concept of infinity. The brief narrative follows three women as they discuss their friendship in vague, hushed tones. Then it begins again as it was written to repeat itself indefinitely.
Beckett's style, Theatre of the Absurd, was a deeply political movement that changed the avant-garde theatre scene in the 1950's and 60's. By stripping away the traditional structures of plot, narrative, objective and conflict, Beckett cut to the core of what made theatrical performance so effective. As a result, the design of his shows was typically sparse with little to no accoutrement.
This made for the perfect canvas to determine a design aesthetic. In addition to the script, which called for nothing more than an exit and a bench, I was given a fine artist whose work was to be used as the lens through which our theoretical director saw the play.
When one thinks of the haunting emptiness of Beckett's work, one does not necessarily think of Wayne Thiebaud, an oil painter from the 1950's. Thiebaud focused on staples of American culture such as hot dogs, lipsticks, ice cream cones and shoes. His pastel colors combined with his thick, layered paint strokes evoked the look of cake frosting. Every painting was dripping with sickly sweet Americana reverence. One feature of his paintings stood out to me as particularly useful. This was his powerful, quiet worship of the American woman. Using his paintings of women, often reverberating with the desire for upwards mobility along with his paintings of shoes and lipsticks I crafted a design for a feminist take on the play.
My design of Come and Go was operatic in scale. Flo, Vi and Ru were surrounded by towering lipsticks and high heels, symbols of the unbearable pressure for women to be beautiful and stay that way forever in American society. The women, dwarfed by the standards of a candied, plastic world are squeezed together onto one small bench. Even when one of them leaves, they simply move to a chair that is still physically connected to the bench. This inability to completely disconnect from each other represents a take on Beckett's infinity. The one thing that keeps these women afloat in a society meant to tear them down is their bond.
Come & Go
Copyright 2014 Alex Casillas
Photograph Courtesy of
R. Eric Stone