— Anthony F. Ingram, Simon Webb, William Samples, and Adam Hederson. Photo: Tim Matheson
WAITING FOR GODOT
Waiting for Godot may not seem the most obvious choice of play for the season. It’s not a feel-good musical or Christmas panto. But Samuel Beckett’s absurdist masterpiece has particular relevance for us at the new year as we make our annual resolutions to do better, move forward, get where we’re going.
For Beckett’s tramps, Vladimir and Estragon, hope also springs eternal. Didi and Gogo, as they call each other, wait impatiently in a barren landscape (a rock, a tree) for someone named Godot to come and “save” them—from boredom? starvation? death? But the mysterious Godot seems reluctant to come. What should they do? Where can they go?
“Don’t let’s do anything,” says Gogo. “It’s safer.” But to do nothing is tedious. And terrifying. “Let’s go,” says Didi. Beckett’s stage directions follow: They do not move.
Beckett called his play a tragicomedy, and John Wright’s superb Blackbird Theatre production provides ample helpings of both qualities. This Didi (Anthony F. Ingram) and Gogo (Simon Webb) are older guys who have been on the road together forever. As their ragged suits and bowler hats suggest, they’ve seen better days. They suffer the physical pains of age and poverty (sore feet, bad kidneys), the pangs of hunger, and the vulnerability of the homeless poor (Gogo gets beaten every night).
Worse, though, is the dark cloud of pointlessness that hangs over them. Why bother? Why not just hang themselves? Because, says Beckett, try to and your pants will fall down.
Webb is consistently funny, his working-class Gogo registering a range of incredulous deadpan looks at the incomprehensible ridiculousness of their moment-to-moment existence. But he also has excruciating dreams. Ingram offers a beautifully precise Didi, his accent slightly more posh, his educated imagination desperate to rationalize their situation. In a terrific sequence when Didi tries to make sense of a few leaves mysteriously appearing on the tree, Ingram looks as if his brain is going to explode.
Landowner Pozzo and his slave Lucky provide welcome distractions for Didi and Gogo. With his choked upper-class vocalisms and grotesque self-aggrandizement, William Samples manages to make Pozzo both comic and anguished. Adam Henderson creates an extraordinary Lucky, the severely abused lackey grateful to have a function in life. When Pozzo orders Lucky to “Think, pig!,” Henderson produces a torturous amalgam of apocalyptic pseudo-science and fragmented theology that is absolutely mesmerizing.
Nice work from Zander Constant, too, as Mr. Godot’s messenger boy.
Coming in at almost three hours, the play has its wearisome moments. But you’ll wait a long time for a Godot as good as this.