SAM and DEDE world premiere where brain meets brawn at Custom Made Theatre

SAM and DEDE, or My Dinner with Andre the Giant: Absurdist Comedy by Gino Dilorio. Directed by Leah S. Abrams. Custom Made Theatre Company, 533 Sutter Street, 2nd Floor, San Francisco, CA. 415-798-2682 or www.customMade.org. February 11 – March 5, 2016 Rating: ★★★★☆

Dave Sikula as Samuel Beckett and Brendan Averett as Andre the Giant.

Dave Sikula as Samuel Beckett and Brendan Averett as Andre the Giant.

 

The conceit of creating fictional dialog between diverse real people has been the basis for many plays. A notable example is the 1993 play Picasso at the Lapin Agile created by Steve Martin that imagines a meeting between Albert Einstein and Pablo Picasso. In Sam and Dede the two characters, absurdist playwright Samuel Beckett and the boy who was to become the wrestling sensation Andre the Giant were personally acquainted. The fertile mind of author Gino Dilorio, a confessed admirer of Beckett, has fashioned an 85 minute opus that mixes semi-intellectual, mundane banter and humorous interplay with physicality to create a thoughtful but not quite fully satisfying evening.

Irish playwright Samuel Beckett moved to France and wrote most of his plays in French. While living in France he was a neighbor of the Roussimoff family who had a son named Andre with a medical condition called acromegaly known as “gigantism.” When Andre was 12 years old and six feet four inches in height he could not fit onto the school bus and Beckett (Sam) drove him to school in his truck. This is the starting point of Dilorio’s imaginary dialog with banter mostly about the sport of cricket that easily flows into questions without answers about Waiting for Godot. It is an auspicious start as Andre is a great sounding board for the famous but insecure Sam.

In that initial meeting Beckett (Dave Sikula) would have been 40 years older than Andre (Brendan Averett ) who had been dubbed with the nickname of Dede. Through their dialog and interaction the dichotomy of their intellectual and physical personae become less diverse and display universal similarities. There is no evidence that their lives continued with personal contact but that does not detract from their fictional encounters.

As the play progresses Dilorio blurs the line between teacher and student culminating in the penultimate scene from the title “My Dinner with Andre the Giant” where the axiom of ‘in vino veritas’ becomes paramount to better understanding their relationship. In exchange for Sam’s intellectual guidance the equally world famous Andre teaches Sam the art of professional wrestling. That performance is terrific without a hint of the final unexpected scene.

The time frame of the play extends from 1958 into late 1980s and Dede must progress from age 12 to adulthood. Brendan Averett is member of Actor’s Equity and was brought in from New York to fill in for Robert Shepard who had to leave the cast. He has the physical stature for the role and brings power with more than a touch of humanity in his characterization. Dave Sikula brilliantly underplays the role of Sam becoming a perfect foil for Andre while performing the job of on-stage stage manager.

Erik LaDue’s simplistic gray/black set with easily moveable boxes and props (Kitty Torres) allow the scenes to flow and is greatly enhanced by Maxx Kurzunski’s lighting that signal changes in the time frame of each scene. The staging of the final scene, not to be revealed here ties up a few loose ends but to this reviewer is unnecessarily hyperbolic.

CAST: Dave Sikula as Samuel Beckett and Brendan Averett as Andre the Giant.

Creative Team: Brooke Jennings, Costume Design, Maxx Kurzunski, Lighting Design;; Beth Hall, Stage Manager; Erik LaDue, Scenic Design; Stewart Lyle, Technical Director; Florence McCafferty, Properties Designer; Kitty Torres, Asst Custume Designer; Ryan Lee Short, Sound Designer.

Kedar K. Adour, MD

Courtesy of www.theatreworldim2.com.