Samuel Beckett wrote the play “Waiting for Godot” in 1948. It premiered in Paris in January of 1953, and in the United States in 1956. It has been performed around the world continually since then and has been voted “the most significant English language play in the 20th century”. Beckett’s line “We are all born mad. Some remain so.” helps explain Beckett’s take on the absurdity of life.
Before seeing “Waiting for Godot” at the Jungle Theater I watched the 2001 film version. The actors had incredible on-screen chemistry. They played the roles very comically and light hearted. It was very different from the version at the Jungle Theater which was more dreary. However, there are some funny scenes sprinkled in.
The show follows two men who wait in vain for a man named Godot. During their tireless longing period they divert themselves by playing games, thinking, doing exercises, and babbling. While waiting they encounter two characters, Pozzo and his slave Lucky. They also meet a boy who is said to be the servant of Mr. Godot and informs them he will come the next day. And so, they wait.
The story itself is mostly bleak and dark. Lines such as “To every man his little cross. Till he dies. And is forgotten.” and “They give birth astride of a grave, the light gleams an instant and then it’s night once more.” show the dankness that Beckett is portraying. The two men do not have much to live for. It is as if they are in hell or limbo.
The stage was almost completely bare. There was a bush, a bench and the only living thing was a tree. When the second act opened we saw leaves on the tree which had not been there before. Once Vladimir sees this he became happy for the first time. Until then there was not much to be excited about. All they had been doing was waiting for Godot.
Their clothing portrayed them as men who had little to no money. They looked like beggars. Boots that don’t fit, scarves to keep them warm, and hats to cover their heads are all they had. Their food was limited to carrots, turnips, and radishes. When they met Pozzo, Estragon is so excited to see he has a picnic basket and asks him to eat the bones off his meat. He sucks on them to get even a morsel of food.
Both Nathan Keepers (Estragon) and Jim Lichtscheidl (Vladimir) did a wonderful job with their facial expressions. My favorite parts of the play were a group of scenes in the second act. At one point the two men find Lucky’s hat and do a juggling routine. They start by swapping the three hats, placing them on their heads, and picking new one’s. They also did a scene where they yell at each other and then make up. Their exercises were highly comical as well. They danced a little jig and then did a tree pose much like yoga. Allen Hamilton (Pozzo) had a rich voice and played the part well. Charles Schuminski (Lucky) was a phenomenal actor. He has been in five productions of “Waiting for Godot” and it was as if he was born for this role. He drooled, he panted, he danced, he thought, he spoke, he held bags, and above all, he did everything the part called for. Bravo to him!
A line to leave you with “We always find something, eh Didi, to let us think we exist?” This is a question for us all. Beckett causes people to think about humanity and what we are doing on this earth. It is true, we all want to find something to do, say, or act to make us feel something. We want people to know we exist and we want to feel good about our time on earth. Although the show is dark, it causes you to think about the short amount of time in which we all live and what we are doing with that time.
The Jungle Theater
August 24-September 30th