Nearly twenty years ago, newly arrived in Seattle, I needed help finding an apartment. Online listings were still a few years away, so I signed up for a service that collected and distributed rental information. I was paired with an agent, Jerry Lloyd, who gave me, whenever I stopped by the office, the latest pages of phone numbers for landlords and apartment managers. I would then drive back to Olympia, where I was living, and start making calls. It was all very analog.
I ended up finding a basement flat through a different contact, but I was still glad to have used the service. I liked talking with Jerry—who, it turned out, was an actor. I had a small job reviewing theater for Olympia’s daily newspaper, and I looked forward to seeing what Seattle’s theater scene would offer. The first play I saw that summer was Theatre Babylon’s spectacular version of Krapp’s Last Tape (as performed by Richard M. Nixon). Jerry starred as Nixon, as Krapp.
I reread Beckett’s one-act play a few weeks ago, and I thought again of the brilliance of the Krapp-Nixon pairing. The tapes! The delusions! It’s as if this late-1950s character study was written with the Watergate era in view. (And maybe it was. The play’s opening stage direction: “A late evening in the future.”) Beckett’s “wearish old man” eats bananas (despite the resulting constipation) and prepares to record a tape to commemorate his sixty-ninth birthday. But first he listens to himself at thirty-nine, when he was marking another birthday (and bidding farewell to love). The new tape, as the play’s title suggests, will likely be his last. (He rips it from its spool and throws it away, a page before the curtain.) The year has been almost devoid of pleasures. “Sat shivering in the park, drowned in dreams and burning to be gone. Not a soul.”
We’ve journeyed from an analog to a digital age. I just Googled Jerry Lloyd, who appears to now live in the Bay Area, where he acts and directs. Jerry, if you happen to read this, would you do me a great favor? Bring Krapp back to the stage—but instead of filtering him through Nixon, filter him through Trump. Because something has to be done. Because something has to get through.
I’ve been wrong about nearly every political prediction I’ve made in the past sixteen months, so maybe I’ll be wrong about this one, as well. But let me make it anyway: Trump’s presidency will be a national and global disaster. He’ll speak in a language designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind. Of much less importance: His presidency will be a psycho-spiritual disaster for the man himself. I imagine him alone in his tower at 2 a.m., scrolling through tweets of yesteryear. It’s mostly humbug, and he knows it (“False ring there,” mutters Krapp)—but maybe he alights on something that felt, at the time of the tweeting, almost real. He reads it, and reads it again . . . and tries to think of something new to tweet, something that would put his present self into conversation with that earlier self, that self that hadn’t yet ruined everything. But he can’t. And the tweet goes untweeted. And he stares into the night.