Theater Review - Waiting for Godot (NY)

Have you ever waited for something or someone so intensely that time seemed to stop?! Well that’s what happens in “Waiting for Godot”, an enigmatic play that constantly fascinates. Written in 1952 by an Irishman, Samuel Beckett, who lived in France and wrote in French, its five characters speak as if they were on another planet; their memory is almost non-existent; they are not sure of their names; they do not know where they are or where they are going. Two of them, Vladmir and Estragon, friends for 50 years, are waiting on a desolate rocky piece of land decorated with one barren tree (Set and costumes--Stephen Brimson Lewis; lighting-- Peter Kaczowowski), for the arrival of someone named Godot.  Atop their heads and ragged clothes, perch black bowler hats.

There has been endless speculation about who Godot is? Is he God? Beckett said no. We do not even agree of how to pronounce the name—is it Go-dot or Godot?

In this brilliantly entertaining production directed with elan by Sean Mathias, Patrick Stewart’s Vladmir is a comforting sort, trying to help his friend, Estragon, the inscrutable Ian Mckellen, in many ways. Several times during the two act, two and one half hour play, he kisses his buddy affectionately and the audience melts with love. Vladmir suffers from a painful bladder condition, but is an optimist; Estragon is plagued by sore feet and other problems like depression. When he begs to go, his pal, Vladmir reminds him that they can’t- they are waiting for Godot. He will make everything better.

This is a friendlier production than most, which gives it an intimate feeling. Some may criticize this; I liked it. The actors toss their lines back and forth as if they were in a vaudeville stage show, throwing in a little soft shoe for extra emphasis. Into their midst come two zany but cruel travelers. Pozzo, played by Shuler Hensley, is a large loud bloated taskmaster, pulling a slight man ironically named Lucky by a long heavy rope. Billy Crudup’s Lucky is pitiful, and one feels terrible for him until he kicks Estragon in the shin when he tries to befriend him. On a return visit, their relationship has changed. Lucky is now in charge.  His monologue is magnificent.   

At one point, a Boy (Colin Critchley) pops out of a hole in the ground to tell them that Godot won’t be coming until the next day. This sad message is delivered again at the end. What are we to think? Is the playwright saying that we are all forced to await our fate, whatever it is, with no control? Do we just have to make the best of it?   All we know is that Vladimir and Estragon are alone with their scattered memories until the next cast comes along.

Here’s a chance to see two great actors and two fine actors do their stuff – “Waiting for Godot” in rep with “No Man’s Land” will play only through March 2.

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