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Waiting for Godot

A review by Tulis McCall

It takes the audience awhile for them to realize that Nathan Lane is doing his best to remove shtick from his performance. They laugh at everything he does in the opening scene, and what he does, this being Waiting For Godot (pronounced GOD-oh here), is a lot of waiting. At times it almost looks like nothing. But isn�t that what waiting looks like? This gets the production off to an oddly paced start from which it never quite recovers.

In this most, most famous play, two men are firmly located near a tree in a land for which there is no name, and they are waiting for Godot. They are not certain it�s the right tree and not positive Godot said he would come today, but to move from this spot could be direst folly, and to stay can�t be any worse than yesterday, which, if memory serves, was pretty much like today. They have been dropped like a set of sinkers into the land of immobility. By and by, as they are thinking up things to do (hanging might be nice but who would want to go first and leave the other all alone, especially if the tree breaks and he cannot use the rope on himself as well) they are visited by passers-by.

Pozzo, pronounced Pot-so, (John Goodman) is a large, pompous man who loves the sound of his own voice more than all the other sounds of this world put together. Accompanying him, or leading him, or being driven on by him is Lucky (John Glover). Pozzo pontificates, occasionally asking how he is doing, and comments on the world in large generous swaths of text. It is Lucky, however, who, when reunited with his cap, and asked to think, erupts with a rush of prose that seems to skitter through the dense thicket of every thought known to humans. It is riveting, and once out of the bag, the thoughts cannot be recaptured.

This makes the choice to stay, and wait for Godot all the more precise and devastating. The world is out there, but the tree and the promise hold Didi and Gogo back. And each night when the boy comes to tell them Godot will not make his appearance, it is enough to be seen by this messenger of the invisible. Didi and Gogo cannot remember why they are waiting, or what was promised, or what occurred 10 minutes ago. They are held in that place between exhale and inhale.

This is a perfectly fine, perfectly bland production of Godot, which is disappointing considering the stellar lineup. While the text entwines them Bill Irwin and Nathan Lane seem not quite attached for the most part. The imposing presence of Goodman gives them something up against which they can unite, but left to their own devices they seem a bit lost. All the actors do, which then becomes a question of directorial decisions made. The characters are lost but the actors shouldn�t be.

This never entirely gets in the way of the text, however, and there are moments of clarity and poetry that flower. Witness:

ESTRAGON: All the dead voices.
VLADIMIR: They make a noise like wings.
ESTRAGON: Like leaves.
VLADIMIR: Like sand.
ESTRAGON: Like leaves.
VLADIMIR: They all speak at once.
ESTRAGON: Each one to itself.
VLADIMIR: Rather they whisper.
ESTRAGON: They rustle.
VLADIMIR: They murmur.
ESTRAGON: They rustle.
VLADIMIR: What do they say?
ESTRAGON: They talk about their lives.
VLADIMIR: To have lived is not enough for them.
ESTRAGON: They have to talk about it.
VLADIMIR: To be dead is not enough for them.
ESTRAGON: It is not sufficient.
VLADIMIR: They make a noise like feathers.
ESTRAGON: Like leaves.
VLADIMIR: Likes ashes.
ESTRAGON: Like leaves.
Long silence.
VLADIMIR: Say something!
ESTRAGON: I'm trying.
Long silence.
VLADIMIR: (in anguish). Say anything at all!
ESTRAGON: What do we do now?
VLADIMIR: Wait for Godot.

Becket is poetry that is prose.

And sometimes I think that opening nights are just a lot of hooey. Hit your mark or go home and hang your head. I expect this will get better as everyone settles in to their work. It is not the stunning production I had hoped for. I still remember seeing Steve Martin, Robin Williams, F. Murray Abraham and Bill Irwin ( as Lucky) in Godot in 1988. I can tell you where I was sitting in the Newhouse. That production marked me.

For this production I can only say that of all the people there I was one.

Tulis McCall

What the press had to say.....

"smart, engaging production ... makes it clear that this greatest of 20th-century plays is also entertainment of a high order."
Ben Brantley
New York Times

"Director Anthony Page has put Tony winners and first-class comic actors Nathan Lane and Bill Irwin at center stage in his sterling revival."
Joe Dziemianowicz
New York Daily News

"the author's 1953 masterpiece is hypnotically entrancing, and this particular production, directed by Anthony Page, ain't too shabby, either.
Elisabeth Vincentelli
New York Post

"All in all, a worthy production"
John Simon

"Godot is noteworthy less for its cast members' marquee value than their ability to make the existential, universal questions posed by the text accessible to a mass audience."
Elysa Gardner
USA Today

"This is bliss - seriously - theatrical and existential bliss." Linda Winner

"screamingly funny and howlingly sad Godot."
David Sheward
Back Stage

"this somewhat rambunctious production, directed by Anthony Page, probably won�t please everyone."
Robert Feldberg
The Record

"one of the most entertaining and powerful renditions of the play that this critic has ever seen."
Frank Scheck
Hollywood Reporter

"It's not easy handling the comic absurdity and terrifying despair that snake hand-in-hand throughout "Waiting for Godot," but the Roundabout Theatre Company's striking revival does justice to both."
Michael Kuchwara
Associated Press

"transcendent production, showcasing four distinctive actors at the top of their game."
David Rooney

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