Monday, February 1, 2010

Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett

Godot Screams For Liberation

By Joe Straw

They sleep without resting, hunger without the pain, fight the insects that crawl through the crevices of their body, and laugh without smiling, all under globelike bowlers that are thrust upon their heads.

Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett and directed by Andrew J. Traister at A Noise Within Theatre in Glendale is a magnificent production about waiting for the inevitable that never comes.

It is an exhausting existential nightmare, a dream gone awry, a road nearly followed, and an entry into the sacred hall of nothingness until, at last, the journey comes to an end. Only to discover - the end - is the beginning.

On this journey, and at the end of the road, they find themselves in a vacuum of a non- sustaining relationship. They exist because they say they do and ultimately it is a quest to stop and find a moment of reason for their being.

It is a dream about having to make water and finding every little drain willing to accept the humanly excretions only to feel the pressure of needing to go again and again until you wake, and go. But they do not awaken. If indeed they are asleep. If life is without purpose they are as good as dead and waiting for someone, like GODot, to come and get them.

The characters in Waiting for Godot Vladimir (Robertson Dean) and Estragon (Joel Swetow) never wake up and live to replay the same events day after day. They have missed something in their lives and are never able to move on. For some odd reason they haven’t found their reason for being. Their dreams are not satisfied leaving them in this sorry predicament. Life is not much more than a catch phrase of passing time and living to push the living around in the cell they occupy.

The play tells us they’ve been together for a long time.

Vladimir: Hand in hand from the top of the Eiffel Tower, among the first. (That would be 1889.)

They are educated men but now they are the victims of hard times.

Vladimir has to constantly remind Estragon where he has been and why they can’t leave, while at the same time Estragon wants to move on thinking they would be better going off on their own separate ways. It is a relationship that gathers no ground and doesn’t move beyond the length of their waiting area.

To break up the monotony of two people going nowhere they think they encounter Godot.

Estragon: Is that him?

Vladimir: Who?

Estragon: (trying to remember the name). Er…

Vladimir: Godot?

Estragon: Yes.

Pozzo: I present myself: Pozzo.

Vladimir: (to Estragon). Not at all!

Estragon: He said Godot.

Vladimir: Not at all!

Pozzo (Mitchell Edmonds) and Lucky (Mark Bramhall) are bound together in a relationship which is much more wretched than those of our tragic heroes, Vladimir and Estragon.

And they seem to be longer along in their relationship. While Vladimir and Estragon have an unbreakable bond formed by an invisible force, a rope holds Pozzo and Lucky together.

The rope around Lucky’s neck has created unspeakable sores. The obese Pozzo holds the rope, calls Lucky a pig, and makes him wait on him hand and foot. Opening his chair, bringing his whip, putting on a coat, it is a degrading master-slave relationship that Lucky seems to accept, a fait acompli, but is saddened when this relationship breaks down around the other components – namely Vladimir and Estragon.

Pozzo, nearly at the end of his journey, starts loosing his materials things, which suddenly and mysteriously disappear: his vaporizer, and his pipe. Is it foreshadowing the end of his journey? And, indeed, he has lost a great deal more when he arrives in the second act, as a blind man and with a shorter rope. And Lucky has lost his ability to speak.

Owen Sholar plays the boy who apologizes to Vladimir that Godot won’t be coming today, “…but surely to-morrow” thereby giving hope to the hopeless.

Dean is magnificent as Vladimir. Last seen in Crimes and Punishment, Dean manages to respectively wear the costume of Vladimir with grace and dignity. Fighting hard to get his way he manages to stay the course that takes him into obliquity. Dean needs to find the rapture in this piece. But, nevertheless, it was a journey of unspeakable pleasure.

Swetow is an actor that grows on you. Slightly disingenuous by his actions in the beginning (taking off his boots) but Swetow becomes more warming as the moments pass on and this culminates into a very nice performance.

Edmonds as Pozzo was enjoyable to watch. Despicable and wonderfully irascible. He carries his rope of fame as long as someone is willing to pull him along and take his commands.

Bramhall as Lucky, with not much to say until he is asked, is a witness to his own demise. He floats with the weights of his master’s deeds until he falls. Bramhall plays the part beautifully dripping saliva on cue and watering the bare dry ground he inhabits.

Traister, as director, has moved the actors into cautious moments of irreverent beauty. It is a straight on interpretation. Unnatural at times in moving the relationships along and not really making his definitive mark in this existential play. But, nevertheless, a very nice job.

Scenic Design was by Michael C. Smith and it served its purpose. The Original Costume Design by Angela Balogh Calin was delightful.

A Noise Within run by Founders Julia Rodriguez-Elliott and Geoff Elliott is a grand theatre about to break ground on a new $15,000,000 theatre. For 18 years this theatre has had an unwavering commitment to the preservation of classical theatre and provided superior educational opportunities to students.

Contributions please call 818-265-7959

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