Beckett plays Vegas.
Definitely odd, but apparently happening now that downtown's about-to-reopen Plaza has announced that it will open a 75-seat theater to accommodate the Insurgo Theater Movement.
The local acting troupe is set to debut in that space Sept. 1 with previews of an "extended run" of avant-garde playwright Samuel Beckett's "Waiting for Godot," opening Sept. 8.
In a statement, gaming executive Anthony Santo, who is operating the hotel scheduled to return next month, said: "As the Plaza is a neighbor to the Smith Center (for the Performing Arts), we have a great opportunity to be part of a growing downtown arts scene with the opening of the Insurgo Theater Movement."
Works by Beckett, whose absurdist plays often mix black humor with bleak outlooks on the human condition, have long been performed at community theaters catering overwhelmingly to local residents. Moving to a downtown hotel for runs longer than the usual two to three weeks, however, represents a shift from the local theater norm.
Insurgo was released from its lease early by the landlord of its current home, the Bastard Theater in Commercial Center. Insurgo director John Beane said the Plaza approached them with the idea for the move.
"It was a bolt out of the blue for us," Beane says. "They're very dedicated to this downtown cultural explosion and taking some chances."
While the group specializes in Shakespeare, avant-garde theater, original works and offbeat material ("Cannibal! The Musical" by the creators of "South Park" is scheduled for later in the year), the choice of the existential "Waiting for Godot" -- though a classic -- is a curious selection to open the theater to attract playgoers.
"It definitely is," Beane says. "But we wanted to show we are dedicated to the kind of aesthetic and the heart that got us in there in the first place. We want to be very representative of what this new direction for casino entertainment is."
Triggering a controversy last fall, Beane, angered by a negative review by Review-Journal theater critic Anthony Del Valle, banned Del Valle from reviewing future productions and posted a Facebook rant about Del Valle that included homophobic language. The Review-Journal responded to the ban by ceasing to write stories about Insurgo productions and rejecting their request to assign a different reviewer to their shows.
"He won't be barred. I don't need to bar anyone from our productions," Beane says, but declined further comment Monday on the Facebook posting.
Recalling the incident, Del Valle says, "I was unhappy with the whole situation because my job is to further interest in theater, not to get into personality squabbles. For that reason, I'm very glad it's over and we can get back to just talking about theater, and all this other nonsense is done with, hopefully."
Confirming that he will review "Godot," Del Valle adds: "If local theater makes an inroad downtown, it will be a giant step forward for Vegas."
Contact reporter Steve Bornfeld at sbornfeld@ reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0256.