Arguably one of the greatest plays of the 20thcentury, Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot has seen countless incarnations since its stage debut in 1952. A who’s who of revered actors have starred as the play’s famous duo, Vladimir and Estragon, including Burgess Meredith and Zero Mostel in 1961 and, more recently, Patrick Stewart and Sir Ian McKellan in 2009 and 2013.
For those unfamiliar with the plot, Waiting for Godot centers around a pair of darkly amusing vagabonds named Vladimir and Estragon who await the arrival of a man named Godot. Throughout the play the two men endlessly bicker and ramble; encounter the eccentric Pozzo and his man slave Lucky; muse about life and death; and, of course, contemplate waiting—and not waiting—for Godot.
As is true with most productions of Waiting for Godot, Counter-Productions Theatre Company's staging of the play features a sparse set; consisting of a barren tree, a stump, and a rock. AS220’s Black Box Theatre is the perfect vessel for the minimal set. Touting a level floor and unadorned black walls, the versatile performance space turns audience members into active participants. Furthermore, the small venue—consisting of no more than 50 seats—makes for a pleasurable viewing experience regardless of where you sit.
Despite the importance of the space, it is, naturally, what fills the space that makes any production memorable. And lucky for those in attendance this past Saturday, this intimate theatre was filled with stellar performances that conjured varied emotions ranging from tragic to absurdly funny.
The two main actors taking us on this journey are Dan Fisher (Vladimir) and Geoff Leatham (Estragon). The leads have great chemistry and make—what could be a tedious play in the hands of lesser actors—a treat to watch. Fisher and Leatham easily transition from absurd comedy to deep philosophical thought with ease. Rounding out the cast are Steven Zailskas as Pozzo, Stevie Smith as Lucky, and Connor Remillard Myette as the Boy.
The entire cast is stellar throughout, and there were some particularly hilarious moments in the play’s first act involving Vladimir and Estragon’s first encounter with Pozzo and Lucky.
Although the entire cast was impressive, Fisher delivered the evening’s stand out performance. Portraying Vladimir, affectionately known as “Didi,” is no easy task because the character runs the risk of becoming annoying due to his eternal optimism, but Fisher’s portrayal is charming and thoughtful. Furthermore, Fisher's comic timing is spot on. Leatham's interpretation of Estragon is beautifully misanthropic. He also manages to interpret Estragon's simplistic nature without turning him into a simpleton.
In addition to the play’s fine performances, the timely subject matter makes it that much more engaging. Despite being written over 65 years ago; Beckett’s themes continue to resonate. Vladimir and Estragon ponder religion, time, mortality, and war—all of which are relevant themes in our current political and social climate.
Waiting for Godot also illustrates how we often delve into heavy philosophical topics on a daily basis to challenge the mundanity of life. Conversely, the play shows that such weighty topics can be discussed with both seriousness and frivolity while simply passing the time. Although the phrase “passing the time” often connotes brief, informal interactions, the play illustrates that we have agency over how we choose to pass the time.
Regardless of whether you are simply waiting for someone who never arrives or contemplating suicide (as our protagonists often do), we have free will to determine how we affect the day, rather than simply letting it affect us. As Neil Peart wrote, “If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice.” Once you learn that notion, you become an active participant in deciding the outcome of your day.
If you’d like to ponder life’s complexities or just laugh out loud, check out Waiting for Godot this weekend. You won’t be disappointed.
Waiting for Godot is currently playing at AS220’s Black Box Theater, located at 95 Empire Street, Providence, RI. There are three performances remaining on Friday and Saturday at 7 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. Admission is $20.
Tickets can be purchased at www.cptcri.com or by calling 401-419-2205.
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