Waiting for Godot
Much ado about nothingBy Seth Bisen-Hersh
Written by Samuel Beckett
Directed by Stacie Green
At Boston Center for the Arts, 539 Tremont Street, Boston
September 10-11 at 8:00 p.m., September 12 at 2:00 p.m.
More information at <http://www.petbrick.com> or at (617) 426-2787
Samuel Beckett’s most renowned work, Waiting for Godot, begins with “nothing to be done.” Ironically, when directing it, instead of nothing to be done, there is an infinite amount of choices to make. As Patrick Wang, co-producer of a new theatre company put it, “There’s nothing you can’t do with this play.” Beckett leaves openness for interpretation while suggesting so many different possibilities. And it is up to the director which road of nothingness to take.
For those of you who haven’t read it in high school, here’s a brief plot summary: Vladimir and Estragon (a.k.a. Didi and Gogo: Patrick Wang and Brett Conner) wait for Godot. Pozzo (Derek Gaspar) and Lucky (David Egan) enter and exit. They pass the time. A boy (Max Prum) enters and exits. The show ends. Waiting for Godot is about, well, waiting for Godot or for anything else that we as humans spend our lives waiting for. Among the many themes of the play is the idea that we live just to pass the time. However, time also is made to stand still throughout the show’s course: it is all the same day, as Pozzo exclaims in Act two. The characters have possibly been re-living the same day for fifty or even hundred years. And, eventually, they will die and it will be as if they had never lived.
The production of Godot was very enjoyable. All five actors were more than adequate and never broke character. Also, the facial expressions (especially Wang’s) were phenomenal. There was never a doubt in my mind that these characters were real. Every line was delivered with accuracy and poignant timing as well. There was never an awkward pause, and, furthermore, every line was understandable. Personally, I thought the most entertaining moments of the show were Lucky’s speech, the lullaby Didi sings to put Gogo to sleep, and the sequence where Didi and Gogo keep switching hats until Gogo tires of the activity. Wang and Conner make an excellent team on stage. They played off of each other splendidly, and one could tell that they, like Didi and Gogo, were close friends.
Godot show was the inaugural performance for Pet Brick productions (so named because it combines the two creators’ first names, Brett Conner and Partick Wang). Of all the plays in the world, why Beckett, you ask? According to Wang, as we are approaching the millennium, people are asking the same questions Beckett asked in his plays. Questions such as “Do we really exist?” and “Is life really significant?” permeate today’s society. Furthermore, the two producers were looking for a play with two principle parts so that, for the first show, they could be involved with every aspect of production.
Wang is no stranger to theatre, but his actual degree is in Economics. In fact, he is from MIT: class of 1998, Course XIV. Because of the teaching support of MIT Theatre Arts faculty and the financial support of an MIT degree, Wang was able to grow as an actor/director while being able to “subsidize” the cost of starting a new theatre company. According to Wang, with MIT’s music/theatre department one can “learn a lot in a very casual way.”
Another reason (besides the dual male leads) Pet Brick chose to produce Waiting for Godot instead of another, more lavish play was because of its simple technical side. The costumes (designed by Diana Kane) were fabulously colorful if inexpensive. They amply brought the characters to life. The minimalist set consisted of a backdrop (with various shades of brown and yellow), a stone, and a tree, which is really all the show needs. It thoroughly painted the picture of the world where Didi and Gogo are entrapped.
There were no sound problems since there were no microphones to deal with. Additionally, the actors all enunciated wonderfully, so it was never difficult to hear lines. The lighting was adequate; however, there were a few minor problems. Every change in the lights seemed to take two seconds longer than it should have. Before many of the blackouts there seemed to be a flash of light, too. Also, another lighting problem was due partly to the fact the audience was so close to the stage. The shadows of the people in the first row appeared on stage, which could have been very distracting if any of us had decided to make shadow puppets.
Every show has to have a gimmick. Rather than tamper with Godot in any way, Wang and Brett Conner instead decided to showcase some of Beckett’s earlier work at the start of the evening to encourage the audience to commence thinking about the playwright’s themes. The first short play was Come and Go. Three women enter, exchange a few words, and then leave, all over the course of about 15 minutes. The dialogue itself lasts about a third of the time. The play is all about relationships and how these three women (clad in blue, purple, and green dresses) seem to be trapped in the past and the future at the same time. Wang said he wished to start the evening very slowly, and this play does exactly that. After watching nothing happening for ten minutes, however, the audience got very restless and started to worry that the entire evening would be this sluggish. Fortunately, it started to pick up.
The second short play was Beckett’s Rough for Theater I. It consisted of two men: a legless one in a wheelchair and a sightless one with a violin. They meet and quickly learn that they can help each other. However, with this help come all other emotions: pain, pride (not wanting to be pitied), bossiness, and even love. They go from liking each other to hating each other to eventually being reluctant but willing to be mutually dependent. Thus, the second play continued the theme of how relationships affect people. It was more exciting than the first because of varied dialogue length and emotions. Furthermore, it was much more verbose and hence had more substance. Additionally, the themes of blindness, memory loss, and dependency all segued nicely into Waiting for Godot.
Thus, it was quite an enjoyable evening, even if it did start out very slowly. Vladimir and Estragon always remind me of some of the most dynamic duos of all time: Abbott and Costello, Laurel and Hardy, and especially Pinky and the Brain. As Patrick remarked, “They are everything.” Everyone can identify a little bit of them in himself.