By Beki Pineda
WAITING FOR GODOT. Written by Samuel Beckett; directed by Geoffrey Kent. Produced by the Arvada Center (6901 Wadsworth Blvd., Arvada) through May 20. Tickets available at 720-898-7200 or www.arvadacenter.org.
Holy cow! How do you write a review for a play that has been analyzed by scholars ever since it was written in 1953?A play about which was written, “[It] has achieved a theoretical impossibility—a play in which nothing happens, that yet keeps audiences glued to their seats. What’s more, since the second act is a subtly different reprise of the first, [Beckett] has written a play in which nothing happens, twice.”
So true. You cannot look away from this production. You would miss something clever and sharp and perhaps insightful if you did. The actors meander around the sparse stage while you and they wait for something to happen . . . maybe even for Godot to arrive. They examine the minutiae of their day, their possibilities for action, with more fervor than Jerry Seinfeld. And yet “there’s nothing to be done.” They behave like an old married couple with halfhearted squabbles that come to no conclusion. Two other characters arrive—Pozzo and his slave/servant, Lucky—but after a short conversation in which nothing emerges, they too leave. Act II brings subtle changes to the set and to the dialogue, with no new revelations. Eventually you begin to think, “Are my days like this? Do I ever really accomplish anything or change anything?” You begin to wonder if you are Vladimir—the happier one—or Estrogen—the depressed one. Is a life lived without anticipation or the potential for hope worth continuing?
And yet it this is a completely enjoyable theater evening. These five actors bring life to this existential drama. With director Geoffrey Kent, they have mined the script for all the humor to be found. They consistently break the fourth wall to address the audience directly, even running up into the house and crawling over seats to illustrate a point. They seem to be in on a private joke and don’t mind sharing it with the audience, as long as you don’t ask what it is. Sam Gregory as Vladimir and Tim McCracken as Estragon bring a scruffy, woebegone appearance to their characters as well as both respect and a poke in the ribs to the material.
The cast is rounded out by Sam Gilstrap as Pozzi, who holds the upper hand in Act I and becomes the underdog in Act II; Josh Robinson as Lucky, the silent slave who “thinks” on demand in a rambling diatribe that can’t be shut off. The fifth character is Boy, played by Sean Scrutchins, who arrives each day to announce hesitantly that Godot isn’t going to make it today . . . possibly tomorrow. And the waiting begins anew.
Being the third play to open in a trilogy being performed on the same basic set did not mean that this set was shortchanged in the making. As usual, the technical team at the Arvada Center can be counted upon to illuminate and enhance the script. Costumes helped determine the sort of lower-middle-class persona of the characters. Pozzo wears a leather jacket adorned with old keys, safety pins and other decorative paraphernalia. The set provides the requisite tree—too feeble to hang themselves from, yet sprouting leaves on command. Some things happen on the set that are never referred to or explained. A green light flashes all the way through intermission from the trunk of the tree. Gear wheels are moved from one side of the stage to the other for no apparent reason. Hanging lightbulbs present in Act I disappear in Act II. These things seemed as random as the dialogue.
As Estragon observes, “We are all born mad. Some remain so.”
WOW factor: 9