note: entire contents copyright 2000 by Larry Stark
Set Design by Rich Archer
Costume Design by Tracy Campbell
Lighting Design by Kathy Maloney
Sound Design by Joe Mazza
Stage Manager Nathan Pyritz
It's said that Samuel Beckett always wanted his "Waiting for Godot" played by four great baggy-pants circus clowns. Tonight, at The Theatre Cooperative in Somerville, Sam finally got his wish. The physical schtick, takes and facial expressions, and the flawless comic timing is always inventively interesting, and serves to underline even deeper the lapses into seriousness, the undertones of angst wrapped in absurd hilarity. Like all clowns, Didi and Gogo always survive their flamboyantly slapstick encounters, even though they often wonder why.
Joe Mazza mainly uses a body apparently made of limp spaghetti and tight rubber-bands to bring Vladimir nervously, energetically alive. His struts and postures and marches often freeze, foot in air, like some stop-motion flash photo. With the rounder Brett Milanowski's Estragon it's the warm, round, pie-eating grin that is most expressive. Watch him steal an entire scene just with the way he chews a pair of bones. These two distractedly pass the time on a sort of street stretching from the entrance door to a stage holding one single tree, with audience ranged on two sides. It's possible to see people on the other side of Rich Archer's space enjoying the show, but there's so much going on such distractions are unlikely.
Wayne Vargas' Pozzo is all elaborate, self-centered friendliness, willing to be the center of attention as he passes, twice, through the scene. Jason Myatt as his bent-double servant Lucky has only his eyes to register either resignation or contempt, but they are always enough. Myatt looks tall standing, passively waiting for orders, so when he walks doubled over, scuttling like an obedient insect, his slavery is all the more abject. And for all his whip-wielding arrogance, Vargas' Pozzo admits he needs the company of other people for even simple things like sitting down.
In the last fifty years Beckett's play has proved a classic, open to widely varying approaches and interpretations. Director Kara-Lynn Vaeni has kept most of the cast in restless motion, with bits and quips and takes tumbling over one another so that the frustrating helplessness of their situation registers only as what it is they are trying to avoid thinking about. As with the best of Shakespeare, all approaches can seem valid; the play itself is always fascinating, but the bubbling energy of this production makes it a delight.
An insert to the program insists that Wayne Vargas was cast to replace Randy Farais as Pozzo only five days before opening when a dislocated knee halted Sunday afternoon's rehearsal. When the run began, however, it was impossible to see any weakness or hesitance in his playing. This is a seamless ensemble effort every step of the way that makes this old classic vibrantly new again.