Mind AND Matter: Sam & Dede, or My Dinner with André the Giant at 59 E 59
59 East 59
March 15, 2017
Sam & Dede, or My Dinner with André the Giant
By Gino Diiorio
Directed by Leah S. Abrams
Mind AND Matter
True story: Irish writer Samuel Beckett, who lived most of his life in France, met and befriended the son of a neighbor, a very large young man known as Andre the Giant. Beckett drove Andre, called Dede, to school in his truck because Dede’s huge size made riding the regular school bus impossible. During the drives together, Beckett and Andre spent a lot of their time talking about cricket.
This vignette is the center of Sam & Dede, or My Dinner with Andre the Giant which spins into a long scene in which the men drink together discussing writing and wrestling (When he grew up, Andre became a highly successful professional wrestler.) Much of the play is highly Beckettian in that it’s filled with talk about the difficulties of both careers and references to Beckett’s plays, particularly Waiting for Godot (which Andre has seen).
Dave Sikula does a fine job as Sam (Beckett) although he can’t quite match Brendan Averett’s Dede, largely because the giant is a larger- than- life character, open for anything whether it’s a wrestling hold or another bottle of wine.
The set by Eric Ladue, is appropriately spare with moveable blocks that the actors reposition to function as Beckett’s truck and a table in a bar. Maxx Kurzunski’s lighting complements the barren set with nice touches like the moon, a projection that comes and goes at a click.
The play, written by Gino Diiorio, is basically a debate between the two men, one wracked by his intellect; the other imbued with passionate physicality. Both are sensitive and out of tune with the ordinary world, Andre because of his gigantism and Beckett due to his brilliance and nihilistic outlook. Director Leah S. Abrams encourages the characters to show us two very different people who form a close, if unlikely bond. There are some charming moments beginning with the drive to school when Andre confesses he doesn’t like school because people gawk at him and Sam says he also dislikes being observed although his work sets himself up for this. Early on, during a discussion of theater, Andre says, “The theatre should take everything we see and make it bigger. Bigger and better and more alive.” As Sam’s play (Waiting for Godot) is about “nothing,” the remark puts the audience at square one—a classic impasse. This is both play’s grace note and its problem.
Despite the humor, so much dealing with the abstract is hard to sustain, (and I’d think hard for viewers to deal with without a slight familiarity with Beckett’s work.) If watching two characters explore ideals is your idea of great theater, you will greatly enjoy Sam & Dede. Even if not, it’s worthwhile—and the final scene, echoing Endgame complete with both men inhabiting trashcans is perfect.