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Two Chapel Hill, NC-based theater companies — Wordshed Productions and Ghost & Spice Productions — will jointly present Accomplices, an evening of three one-act dramas directed by Jay O'Berski, from March 6 to 16 in Studio 6 of Swain Hall on the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill campus. The taut trio, which together run an hour and 15 minutes without an intermission, includes selections adapted from the novel Finnegans Wake by James Joyce (1882-1941), Krapp's Last Tape by Samuel Beckett (1906-89), and One for the Road by Harold Pinter (1930- ).
"We're working with Jay O'Berski for the first time," Wordshed Productions artistic director Matthew Spangler told Robert's Reviews. "It's also the first time that Wordshed is working with a director who's not a company member. But I've always wanted to work with Jay."
O'Berski, who teaches at Duke University, is the artistic director of Chapel Hill, NC-based Shakespeare & Originals. He is also one of the Triangle's finest comic actors.
The cast of Accomplices includes John Murphy, Jordan Smith, and Nicole Taylor.
"In Finnegans Wake," wrote Spangler in preshow publicity, "Joyce attempted to transform language into music — what he called a 'wordloosed soundscript.' The novel is a fast-paced, raucous celebration of the aural capacity of language."
Spangler said Wordshed Productions will be returning to its roots by staging Krapp's Last Tape. Spangler noted that his company's very first show, which ran in March 1998, was Beckett's masterpiece of Modern Drama, Waiting for Godot.
"Krapp's Last Tape is a shattering monologue of a man who, after 30 years, plays back the tape he recorded on his 39 birthday," Spangler wrote. "The play explores the universal human themes of aging, inadequacy, and loss."
Spangler added, "One for the Road, Pinter's most clearly articulated political statement, features the head of a secret police force who brutally interrogates his victims. Named Drama magazine's Play of the Year in 1984, One for the Road is a powerful indictment on the use of state sponsored torture."
In an interview with Robert's Reviews, Spangler said, "Joyce, Beckett, and Pinter are three of the major writers of the 20th century, which is now the last century. Each of these writers is a major influence on the others. For instance, Joyce is a major influence Beckett, and you see Joyce's influence throughout Beckett's work.
"Joyce dictated large portions of Finnegans Wake to Beckett," Spangler said, "when they were both living in Paris during the 1930s. Joyce's eyesight was failing, and Beckett would record the words for Joyce."
Matt Spangler wrote, "Much of Beckett's work, particularly in its careful use of verbal rhythm and repetition, owes a debt to Joyce. And Beckett's absurdist comedies provided a model for Pinter. The plays of both writers are filled with characters whose actions are never rationally explained."
Spangler claimed to Robert's Reviews: "Beckett was a major influence on Pinter, and one that Pinter often acknowledges in interviews. Pinter freely acknowledges that Beckett is an influence on him.
"I think we see this influence of Beckett on Pinter particularly in the absurdist comedy of a lot of Pinter's plays and the way in which both writers don't always give us a [detailed] background of the situation and the characters in the drama. Often," Spangler said, "we don't know who these characters are or where they are. That seems to be borrowed very much from Beckett.
"Coincidentally," said Matt Spangler, "each of these writers is exactly 24 years older than the other. Joyce is 24 years older that Beckett, and Beckett is 24 years older than Pinter. So, what we have is three generations of writers, each one influencing the next generation."
"The show is called Accomplices," Spangler said, "because these three writers in their works try to subvert the conventions of drama and literature. They try to find new forms of communication with their audiences. Insofar as they've influenced each other, I think we can consider them 'accomplices,' in that they are united in this mission of subverting conventional literary forms."
Spangler said the Pinter play, One for the Road, is particularly timely. "This play is about an interrogation," Spangler explained. "Again, you are not sure where this interrogation takes place, who's being interrogated, or why they're being interrogated.
"What you do know," Spangler emphasized, "is that it is a state-sponsored interrogation. I think this is an important play to do now, because of the worrisome state of civil rights in this country today. We have an American citizen who is currently locked up in a U.S. Navy jail, not able to see an attorney, not able to see his family members; and he's being interrogated. And this could go on for the rest of his life."
Wordshed Productions and Ghost & Spice Productions present Accomplices Thursday-Saturday, March 6-8 and 13-15, at 8 p.m. and Sunday, March 9, at 2 p.m. in Studio 6 of Swain Hall on Cameron Ave. at UNC-Chapel Hill. $10 ($5 students, $8 seniors). 919/969-7121 or firstname.lastname@example.org. http://www.unc.edu/wordshed/welcome.html.