Wednesday, June 10, 2009

No More Waiting

Last week while briefly in New York, we saw Waiting for Godot, the Samuel Beckett opus that has been heralded by some as the greatest play of the 20th century. As always, a great production and terrific cast have much to do with how well the play comes across--especially one as determindely obscure as this one can be at times--but I left feeling that the argument for this being the best--or surely one of the best--was a strong one.

The two tramps are played by Nathan Lane and Bill Irwin to perfection. Some disagree about John Goodman, who takes over the stage when he appears midway through each act, if only because of his sheer size. I found Goodman fabulously entrancing as Pozzo, the master who returns in the next act as subdued as his slave, Lucky. The production decisions made by Anthony Page, the director, all worked well. The set, which allows little imagination, was well conceived and allowed the characters to move about when appropriate.

Aside from learning--at least from this presentation--that Godot is meant to be accented on the first syllable not the last, the play permits you to learn a zillion and one things about human life and your life. It does what theatre too rarely manages to do: open your mind to wander about and speculate on the meaning of all kinds of things. Is there meaning in the purported meaninglessness? Beckett, for all the sparseness for which he is renowned, is full of human feelings and allows his characters to express them in the most original manner.

It was satisfying to see this play produced in the way it was always meant to be or needed to be. One recalls the idiocy of the early U.S. production in the 50s which premiered in Florida, because some crazed producer thought "the comedy sensation of the age" would appeal to retirees. It also led to many patrons walking out even in New York, mostly because it was hawked as a comedy like any other comedy, which surely it is not. That said, I'm sure Bert Lahr and E.G. Marshall were superb back then as Gogo and Didi.

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