Is Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot a masterpiece or is it one of the greatest theatrical hoaxes ever perpetrated by a playwright? There have been religious, political, Freudian, Existentialist and Homoerotic interpretations of this play. What is it about? Is it comedy or tragedy? Is it full of despair or is there a glimmer of hope for these lost souls waiting eternally for someone, for something to happen?
After sitting through a very lengthy two acts of the revival at the Roundabout Theatre at Studio 54 starring Nathan Lane, Bill Irwin, John Goodman and John Glover and smartly directed by Anthony Page, where you get a double dose of nothing happening in two acts and where it’s almost a case of mass hypnosis – everyone trying very hard to make you believe you are witnessing something of earth shattering importance, some fellow members of the audience were either bored to death (not unlike the characters of Estragon – Lane and Vladimir – Irwin) nodding off while others seemed enraptured by the intellectual goings on, being expressed on the intriguing ashen grey set designed by Santo Loquasto.
It doesn’t matter what it means or how you pronounce Godot, the play is basically about the long time relationship of the two men in bowler hats who can’t seem to live without each other despite the boredom of every day existence, the day to day waiting for some unknown character called Godot to arrive. So they fill in the long lapses of time with word games, teasing and cajoling and caring for one another, complaining about sore feet, or running off to urinate.
The master of mime, Bill Irwin and the master of comic timing and the take – quick or double – take your pick – Nathan Lane are perfect together bickering and bantering like some old married couple – nicknaming each other, Didi and Gogo. Bringing back fond memories of Laurel and Hardy or Abbott and Costello – there’s an echo of the famous bit – Who’s On First? – reenacted here or the circus clown bit with three hats or the unruly whip that Mr. Lane cannot comically control. But it’s long and far between these comic interludes that test the patience of the theatergoer with the who, the why, the what’s this all about talking in circles business.
An enormous and excellent John Goodman is the wind bag Pozzo who has his emaciated and drooling slave, with the ironic name of Lucky, in tow on a long rope tethered to Lucky’s neck. John Glover does an incredible job of trying to stay upright, with his wobbly walk and obedience to his master. He of no hope left has a monologue of gibberish that is a work of art as delivered. There is also a child who delivers messages from the unseen Godot – played by Matthew Schechter. I’d like to know what he thinks of all this.
Richard Adler and Jerry Ross sum it up best with their song from Damn Yankees:
“We’re two lost souls
On the highway of life
And there’s no one with whom we would ruthur
Say, “Ain’t it just great, ain’t it just grand
We’ve got each other.”