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The Fall

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By Cammy Paglia



Belgian born actor Ronald Guttman takes on the daunting task of elucidating the inner workings of the complex mind of Nobel Prize winning philosopher, Albert Camus in the stage production of The Fall. Directed by Didier Flamand and adapted for the stage by Alexis Lloyd, tickets will give you entree to 70 minutes of stream of consciousness headiness in this solo performance.


The stage is sparse. There is little music. Sound effects are indistinct. While the actor’s unconventional use of the stage is a bit distracting, the performance plays well in the dark, below-street-level venue. Guttman, the actor, cuts a figure of sophisticated charm. John Baptiste Clamence, the character he portrays, is an unsavory, has-been French lawyer expounding lamentations over drinks in a sordid bar called Mexico City in Amsterdam’s red light, district circa 1956.


Camus was an existentialist best known for his philosophy of absurdism. He wrestled with his belief that life is devoid of meaning. In this performance, Clamence’s denunciation of judgement is coupled with his angst over the manifestations of shame, guilt, condemnation and duplicity which plague the human condition. Hence, the title of the play draws an intelligent analogy of man’s fall from grace in the Garden of Eden.


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Ronald Guttman in The Fall; Photo courtesy of the artist


Clamence is a tortured soul. One does not see his reflection as that of a fulfilled man even though he was once someone of status and wealth. What’s more, at the outset of the play Clamence is judging the people in the audience. The director’s adept creativity of breaking the conceptual barrier of the fourth wall comes into play here. He addresses a man in the audience and at a glance has him pegged as “kind of a businessman” and “upper middle class”.


As the narrator of what can be called a diatribe against judgement,  Clamence exudes contempt for humanity as well as great cynicism. He tries to assuage his guilt over his failure to save a woman who drowned herself by musing over the “what if” possibly of getting a second chance to save her. He corrects himself. In such a second chance scenario he confesses that it is a good thing that it wouldn’t be possible to have such a chance because if he did, he would once again not lift a finger and let her drown. The thought of jumping into a cold river is one of his excuses for his ineptitude.


In line with this obsession about judgement, he expounds on how he has led a life of debauchery and fornication. Yet he is crafty by playing the part of a judge/penitent.


Since the main theme throughout is that he is guilty and hates to be judged, he again uses his craftiness by reminding himself and the audience that he was once a successful lawyer. He helped widows and orphans and would rush to walk a blind man across the street. We learn that these acts were not altruistic but rather a means to appear dutiful.


The piece de resistance is the way Clamence attempts to twist the minds of his audience into convincing them that they are just as guilty as he is.  He uses a lawyer’s chicanery whereby accusing himself; he judges you. He again plays the part of the judge/penitent. He is an egotist. He is tormented.


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Ronald Guttman in The Fall. Photo by Zak deZon


Guttman plays Jean-Baptiste Clamence as an impotent John the Baptist from scripture who cannot fulfill his destiny as the baptizer since he finds water repugnant. Our narrator is morally bankrupt. He is without hope, enveloped in the genre of absurdity in the truest sense of the word.


Ronald Guttman had his work cut out for him. It is not an easy task for an actor to breathe life into what is essentially a showcase for the translation of an intricate philosophy. This actor and director have skillfully managed to nevertheless emphatically pull it off.


The Fall

The Huron Club at The Soho Playhouse 

15 Vandam Street, New York, NY

October 13, 2022 to November 19, 2022.

For tickets call the theatre at

(212) 691–1555.