Friday, May 25, 2018

Waiting for Godot and Saint Joan

These were two marvelous evenings in the theater because both are wonderful plays. This was the third or fourth time I've seen Godot and each time, I feel I get more out of it. I catch more of what the characters are trying to say or trying to convey. This production was by the Druid company, of Galway, in Ireland. We almost saw them there last year as they were doing O'Casey's Juno and the Paycock, a classic that holds its value, too.

The actor playing Vladimir or Didi had a beautiful West-of-Ireland accent, and as all four of the principals spoke, I felt more and more of what Beckett was doing came across. Existentialism and l'absurde as well, but it's not as cold and analytical as this play is sometimes thought to be. You do get to see people acting on their impulses rather than thinking anything out, even as they have all the time in the world to do that, but they do not choose to.

Saint Joan, which Shaw wrote in 1923, only three years after the Catholic Church got around to canonizing Jeanne d'Arc, is one of his best-written plays. There is the usual Shavian talk but it is more to the point here and he devotes much of it to making you understand all of the different motivations that made it in almost everyone's interest to burn the future saint at the stake for heresy. Political necessity was regarded highly then by both the English and the French.

This was presented at the Folger by the Bedlam company out of New York. Four players covered all the 27 parts, and the actress playing Joan only played her. They were magnificent. The play came across in all its power--its "six scenes and an epilogue" which played for about 3 1/4 hours. I always love the epilogue where Joan gets to appear in Charles VII's dream, along with the other major characters. How they all flee or run for cover when she suggests, now taking account of her status as a saint, that she should return to earth as a living being.

"When will this beautiful green earth be ready to receive its saints? How long, O Lord, how long?" is her closing line. Saint Joan was the second play I ever saw, in the '50s on Broadway with Siobhan McKenna. My first play had been Julie Harris in The Lark, by Jean Anouilh, translated by Lillian Hellman, with Boris Karloff as the Archbishop, also a play about Joan of Arc. I might have been pardoned then for assuming that all dramas featured Joan of Arc.

No comments:

Post a Comment