The first play, called “Hughie,” by Eugene O’Neill, features actor Ed Claudio, who’s a tad past 65. Claudio plays a down-and-out 1920s hustler named Erie Smith. He staggers onstage wearing filthy, drink-stained clothes, returning to his shabby hotel after a long binge.
The deserted lobby is quiet, like a funeral parlor. And Erie’s rambling one-way chatter is both pathetic and comical. The role of a lonely loser is a fabulous vehicle for an older actor like Claudio puts sizzle into the slang of this bygone era.
The second play is by Samuel Beckett, called “Krapp’s Last Tape.” It features 86-year-old Mitch Agruss, as a nearly blind man, stooped with age, rummaging through reel-to-reel tapes he recorded forty years earlier. Listening to his younger self, the old man can’t help laughing, but the laughter is fueled by ridicule and regret, more than mirth.
It’s like looking into a twisted funhouse mirror as the old guy cackles and winces, realizing what a fool he’s been. Agruss gives a carefully nuanced performance, layering past and present, recorded sound and live performance.