"Yeats After Life" is an unusual collection of three one-acts by the Irish poet William Butler Yeats, linked by their focus on life after death. Each reflects a distinct period of his work for the theater, and while some are more compelling than others, the evening as a whole is an intriguing look at a rarely performed playwright. In addition, director Robert McNamara has adapted a work by Samuel Beckett, another Irishman, that fits neatly into the evening's mood at the Source Mainstage.
Yeats (1865-1939) was passionately interested in the occult, and in 1917 married a young woman who was a medium. This interest is reflected most directly in the final play of the evening, "The Words on the Windowpane," in which a medium convinces a skeptic that she is in touch with Jonathan Swift in the great beyond. The play is the most accessible of the evening, written as a kind of old-fashioned whodunit (is she a fake, or isn't she?); it ends rather curiously with the medium getting an unexpected return visit from Swift that doesn't seem to have much significance. It is excellently performed by all six cast members, particularly Prudence Barry as the medium and Nancy Robinette as a timid customer anxious to contact her husband.
The opening play, "The Cat and the Moon," reflects Yeats' interest in Japanese No theater, to which he was introduced by his one-time secretary, Ezra Pound. It is a fable in which a blind man and a lame one are offered a choice between being "blessed" and having their handicaps removed. The use of masks and stylized movement is evidence of Oriental influence; the language is stylized as well. It's not my cup of bog water; the point of the tale is long in coming and the language is obscure and rather tedious. Michael Judge and Richard Mancini as the two beggars add as much life as they can to the proceedings, and Ingrid Bethke-Eichorst has a pleasant low voice for the very effective musical accompaniment.
Krystov Lindquist presents a sepulchral presence as an old -- possibly dead -- man in "Texts for Nothing," a monologue by Samuel Beckett. Lindquist effectively plays against his natural ethereal presence in developing a very physical characterization of a person who, in Beckettian spirit, is looking into the chasm.
"Purgatory" is interesting primarily for the lurid story that unfolds: a man accompanied by his son is looking at the ruins of a mansion where his high-born mother lived until she died in childbirth. His father was a stable boy who proceeded to squander the family fortune and then burn down the house. The man describes how he killed this hated father and then turns on the son. Nicholas Lucas rather overdoes the tormented man, flailing in rage and fury beyond the limits of credibility.
A trio of musicians perform throughout the evening, and their contribution to creating a bit of Celtic twilight is inestimable. McNamara has used them to great effect, and with their help created an offbeat and interesting evening.
YEATS AFTER LIFE. Directed by Robert McNamara, sets by John Antone, lights by Lea Hart, costumes by Zoe Stofflet, masks by Jack Guidone, musical direction by Michael Smiquelskis. With Michael Judge, Richard Mancini. Ingrid Bethke-Eichorst, Oliver Eichorst, Krystov Lindquist, Nicholas Lucas, Cal Hoffman, Elizabeth VanDenBerg, Ian Armstrong, Joao DeSousa, William Bridges, Nancy Robinette, Prudence Barry, Jeffrey Crespi, and Ted Murphree. At the Source Mainstage through Feb.2.