Theatre Mirror Reviews - "Waiting for Godot"

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note: entire contents copyright 1999 by Larry Stark

"Come and Go"

by Samuel Beckett
Directed by Patrick Wang

Vi....................Liz Robbins
Ru....................Ann Weber
Flo..............Jennifer Moxin

"Rough for Theatre I"

by Samuel Beckett
Directed by Patrick Wang

A............................Rob Astyk
B.............Michael McSheffrey

"Waiting for Godot"

by Samuel Beckett
Directed by Stacie Green

Estragon................Brett Conner
Vladimir...............Patrick Wang
Lucky......................David Egan
Pozzo...................Derek Gaspar
A Boy.......................Max Prum

Scenic Design by Betty Yang
Costume Design by Diana Kane
Lighting Design by Steve Weiss
Stage Manager Michelle Aguillon

New company; old plays.
For their first show Pet Brick Productions has elected to fill the Black Box Theater space at the BCA with a brief anthology of the career of Samuel Beckett, but run in reverse. The minimalist late condensation of theater to its essence "Come and Go" has a trio of women engaged in almost ritual repetition of its few lines and gestures, until their mere presence onstage is as impressive as anything they do or say. That's followed by "Rough for Theater I" in which a blind beggar who can't play his violin and a one-legged man poling his wheelchair painfully along grudgingly and tentatively talk themselves into sharing one's sight and the other's mobility for possible mutual benefit. And then these two later, more fragmentary pieces lead logically to the classic comedy, forever fresh and funny and movingly enigmatic: "Waiting for Godot".

It may not happen every night, but when I saw the show, the fact that a figure had quietly come into the playing space and sat frozen in pose like an unfinished gesture had an amazing effect on the usually convivial audience. Was it respect, or curiosity, or uneasy awareness that stilled voices and focused attention? When a second, and then again a third appeared, repeating their changes in posture, their faces all but obscured by identical wide-brimmed hats, and finally one very quietly broke the silence and the brief, solemn ritual began, the intent silence of that entire audience seemed as controlled and ritualized as what they were seeing.

When the wrangling beggars, their infirmities fitting one another together like a grumpy yin and yang shuffled off, still arguing, the sad essence of man's absurd existence and the desperate need for companionship in its void became, as subtext at least, painfully obvious. Given the cold, hard facts of Beckett's bleakly doomed human landscape, what is one to do?

Pet Brick Productions is a young company, and co-founders Brett Conner and Patrick Wang necessarily emphasize the fresh-faced optimism of youth in this clown-show about the laughable futility of the human condition. Conner's broken-backed stoop as the earthy Gogo contrasts with Wang's scarecrow uprightness as Didi, but they have an exuberant eagerness to invent new games and pastimes while they await the assured arrival of a vague saviour. Even Betty Yang's backdrop is a swath of softly warm orange, for the pair reunite every day at dusk. They may be in a blasted bog with only one flimsy tree and a hard rock to sit on, but until Steve Weiss' lights bring on nightfall with a sudden crash, the pair can look at that light sky and pretend their future will be bright.

Stacie Green who directed this play (Patrick Wang directed the first two) has been at great pains to balance the light surface with all the darker undertones, yet leaving neither out. This pair is always astonished by the newness of things --- even the newness of things repeating themselves. When the brash, haughty Pozzo (Derek Gaspar) strides into their world with his whipped, stolidly resigned slave Lucky (David Egan) led by a rope around his neck, it is a delightful diversion --- or, at least, it passes the time. No, Pozzo isn't Godot (Godine?) (Godet???), but he'll do till the real thing comes along.

The timing here, comic as well as tragic --- and there is such a thing as tragic timing after all --- is everything. The relationships, the subjects of conversations, the background lives alluded to, the hardships and beatings and disappointments endured, would be truly absurd if everyone on stage weren't totally, believably alive to the truth of each moment as it enfolds. These people are much more complicated, much more animated than the figures of the first two plays, but at bottom it's their tenaciously lively existence on stage that is so compelling.

In each act, almost as an inevitable ritual, a frightened boy appears with a message from Godot. Max Prum stands like a stage-frightened Irish ragamuffin, hands in his knickerbockers' pockets, blurting his disappointing message of hope deferred. His terror is so palpable he seems not to act, but be.

There is a subtle change of temperature between the two acts. The diversions and improvised games continue in both, but the night I attended the laughs had all but disappeared in the second act --- and not all of it was that many of the details were now familiar. It is true, after all, that the desperate tramps reject suicide in the first act but accept it in the second, and though they can't go on, go on. They have been going on in continually new incarnations for over forty years. And so long as new companies like Pet Brick Productions continue to dust it off and make it new again, this classic will never die.


"Waiting for Godot" (till 12 September)
Black Box Theater, Boston Center for The Arts, 536 Tremont Street, BOSTON

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