Friday, May 08, 2009

Roundabout Theatre's "Waiting for Godot"

Thursday night: it was a funny experience watching a play I had heard and read so much about without ever having watched or read it. I felt all the time that I had seen it before but that the present performance was different from what I thought I knew. For one thing, this Godot had four characters (and a boy who brought word that Godot was not coming that day) when I thought there were supposed to be two. For another, it was much funnier than I had expected.

Nathan Lane played an articulate and despairing Estragon, Bill Irwin played an irascible Vladimir, John Goodman played a hapless Pozzo, and John Glover played a pathetic and ferocious Lucky. They were terrific clowns, entertaining the audience as much as they entertained themselves, to occupy the time while waiting for Godot. 

Tied to Pozzo literally by a string, Lucky was cuffed around like a slave, but would kill anyone who tried to free him. It was better to belong to someone than to no one. A funny and sad moment came when Estragon and Vladimir, both friends, tried to play being Pozzo and Lucky. Even slavery, it seems, is so much role-playing to pass meaningless time. 

The overall effect of the production was sweet and sad, but not savage nor menacing. The sweetness and the sadness surprised me for I had expected to be rocked to the core by the play's existential claims. I found Pinter's The Homecoming much more troubling and questioning in this respect. Finding the absurd in the normal affected me more powerfully than making normal the absurd. 

This Roundabout Theater Company production was seen in Studio 54, with TCH. Anthony Page directed. 

***

from John Lahr's TNY review:

"Nothing to be done": the first words of "Waiting for Godot" announce both the characters' existential impasse and the author's aesthetic attack--no context, no exposition, no admonitions, no answers, no common ground. "Two things are stated: absence and attendance," Pinter said. There is nothing to be done; one can only be.

*

Whereas the old clowns were not educated men--they felt much more than they understood--Lane and Irwin are emblematic of the current, more knowing, more self-conscious breed. (Irwin even has a degree in clowing: Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Clown College, Class of '74.) They are lucid, they get all their laughs, but the price of their cultivation is an unfortunate absence of urgency. They seem to understand more than they feel; they can't quite reach the mad, inspired levitation of the authentic clown's poetic suffering.

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