‘Waiting for Godot’ – Surprisingly Fresh and Funny, Still No Godot

The Shakespeare Theater Company’s highly stylized and absurdist production of Waiting for Godot is a visual feast, if such a thing can be said for a stage that at most contains two set pieces and four actors.

Francis O’Connor’s striking, simplistic design is the visual embodiment of Beckett’s exploration of life as tragedy, comedy, philosophy, and confusion. James F. Ingall’s nightfall lighting at the close of Act I magnificently packages every note of the play in a single tableau. Tony winning Director Garry Hynes and Druid Theater Company have brought this acclaimed revival from a successful run in Ireland to Washington, DC.

In full disclosure, Waiting for Godotis not the easiest piece of theater to digest. On a parched remote road pierced only with a hanging tree (or is it???) and a smooth stone, two careworn friends await the arrival of the mysterious Godot. While waiting, they muse, ruminate, bicker, banter, and head-scratch at life’s greater questions.The plot is almost non-existent, the dialogue an existential exercise in futility. Does anything really matter? Even excellent word play cannot tell. In a poll conducted by the British Royal National Theatre in 1990, Waiting For Godotwas voted the “most significant English language play of the 20th century.” The prolix avant-garde tragicomedy at the same time attainsa Benny Hill-esque slapstick hilarity that belies its erudite gravitas.

Aaron Monaghan is Gogo: melancholy, suffering, hunched, furrowed in doubt. His foil is Marty Rea’s Didi: tall, upright, hopeful. The juxtaposition has been aptly described as the marriage between a question mark and an exclamation point. They, tree and rock, interact with weighted immobility intersected by vaudevillian physicality (kudos to movement director Nick Winston). The endless waiting is interrupted by travelers Pozzi and Lucky. Rory Nolan hams it up as obnoxious, self-important, corpulent Pozzi. His ironically named slave Lucky, played by Garrett Lombard, is a silent brute, though at one point unexpectedly erupting into a blistering monologue.

If you go see Waiting for Godot waiting to actually see Godot, you’ll leave sorely disappointed. But, if you’d like to see a fresh take on Beckett’s most famous work, Hynes’ sympathetic, humor-filled staging feels like the classic’s best production in years. Enjoy. Or don’t. Nothing to be done.

Waiting for Godot is playing at The Shakespeare Theatre Company’s Lansburgh Theatre (450 7th Street, NW, Washington, DC 20004) through May 20, 2018. Running time: two and a half hours minutes with one 15 minute intermission. For information or tickets, call the box office at (202) 547-1122, or click here.

Photo credit Matthew Thompson.

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