NEW YORK — Samuel Beckett’s absurdist classic, Waiting for Godot, continues to confound and excite audiences decades after its premiere in France. For evidence of this, check out the Druid Theater Company production at Lincoln Center’s White Light Festival in New York City. Directed by the Tony-winning Garry Hynes, this Godot feels both authentic to Beckett’s vision and never earthbound.
The four actors in the play showcase their comedic chops, their ponderous waiting, and their general fascination with the deeper themes of the playwright’s efforts — whatever those themes might be.
Waiting for Godot is a two-and-a-half-hour show that follows no real narrative structure. Two gentlemen — Estragon (Aaron Monaghan) and Vladimir (Marty Rea) — stand around on a barren landscape and wait for a man named Godot. There’s a dead tree nearby and a round, egg-shaped rock ripe for sitting. They wait and wait, offering tidbits of information on their lives, their backgrounds and the man they’re waiting for. However, as soon as a morsel of information is said aloud, the dialogue shifts to something seemingly off-topic. It’s in these frustrating back-and-forth exchanges that Waiting for Godot starts to take form, more as an exercise in boredom, futility, yearning and rhythmic cadence than anything more formalized.
Disrupting the two main characters are Pozzo (Rory Nolan), a domineering figure who treats his partner, Lucky (Garrett Lombard), to hellish conditions. They are first seen coming in from the side of the stage, Pozzo holding on to a rope that is tied around Lucky’s neck.
When he enters, Pozzo brings great humor to the play, and Lucky, the one time he speaks, brings brilliant pathos. Yet they don’t fit naturally into the fabric of the show, so the two interlopers present more head scratches and ponderous musings for the main figures. And everyone cannot understand where (and who) Godot is.
Beckett’s word choice is unparalleled, a beautiful dance between pauses and utterances. The dialogue is never over the top or theoretical in nature. In fact, it almost exactly mimics the speech of the everyday everyman. And perhaps the show’s most effective parts are when everyone stays quiet, and the action takes over. The removal of one’s shoe, for example, is a prolonged sequence of a few minutes. The trading of bowler hats, another few minutes. The marveling at three leaves on a tree, a few more minutes. These quieter moments can speak louder than the words.
Hynes brings authenticity to the text by never steering far from Beckett’s vision, whatever that was. She is able to focus on the simplicity of the story-less story and let the characters jump around different genres, highlighting the comedy and also allowing quick flashes of drama to seep in.
The Druid Theatre Company’s production, which runs through Tuesday, Nov. 13 at the Gerald W. Lynch Theater at John Jay College, sticks to the book and attempts to discover the undiscoverable. And the journey to incomprehension is so much fun.
By John Soltes / Publisher / [email protected]