Two tramps (today they’d be called “homeless”) wait by a leafless tree for a mysterious man. He told Vladimir he’d come yesterday. But didn’t. Then he said today. Nope. So, they wait and try to pass the time with word games, famous quotations, and barely remembered vaudeville shtick while trying hard not to think — which always gets them in trouble.
Vladimir seems convinced that this Godot — wait, GOD-ot? — can help, or at least reveal where they stand. A boy shows up twice (the same one?). He dresses all in white, like a young Jesus, and assures Vladimir and Estragon that Mr. G. will come.
It’s tempting to say Godot, in Samuel Beckett’s masterpiece, is God. So, the play’s an allegory of redemption? Beckett teases the notion when he talks about the thief saved at the crucifixion and when Estragon claims “all my life I’ve compared myself to Christ."
But, replies Vladimir, “where he lived it was warm, it was dry.” Beckett sabotages religious allusions.
Or you could say that the tramps are in some post-apocalyptic horrorscape, since the terrain’s so barren and people are losing their memories and minds — and “thinking.” But even that would be too specific, since their language is often poetic. The temptation comes, in part, from wanting to attach a familiar explanation to Beckett’s bleak “tragicomedy in two acts.” Because the bare facts are too disturbing.
No one has any rights here. Laughter is prohibited. Gogo is beaten every morning. Life is just a growing amnesia, deadened by habit. Vladimir and Estragon have been “blathering about nothing in particular…for half a century.”
Far safer to grope for a familiar explanation — any familiar explanation — out of self-defense than to hear “we always find something, eh Didi, to give us the impression we exist?”
Fruitlessmoon Theatreworks' choice of Godot makes a definite statement. The company gets some, but not all, of this difficult play. Vladimir (Tom Steward) and Estragon (Joe Powers) have fine moments, and work well in tandem, suggesting differences and similarities. But vocally they are too loud for the space. They shout early and often and have no place to go in the weaker second act.
Beckett directed Godot six or seven times. For the fourth, I think, he wanted histrionics. That didn’t work. Being brash made Didi and Gogo less vulnerable and didn’t convey “a sense of waiting, of unfulfilled, unredeemed waiting.”
Though a tad stiff, Steward and Powers’s slapstick routines have an effective, rickety quality, like half-remembered bits from “a million years ago.”
As the even-odder couple, Pozzo and Lucky, Fred Harlow and Don Loper do quite well. Harlow, dressed in part like a circus ringmaster, is as caustic as he is funny. No mean feat. Harlow’s particularly effective when the self-proclaimed “liberal” Pozzo’s powers dwindle in Act Two.
Loper’s sad-eyed, overloaded Lucky is an image of ache. Wearing Carol Whaley and Lisa Burgess’s nouveau-Golgotha outfit, Loper does a fine job with Lucky’s famous, allegedly gibberish, speech (“in spite of the tennis”). It used to make sense to Lucky. But now his recall is faulty. So, like an actor memorizing lines, he returns back to the beginning, or the middle, to start anew. In the process he tries to get his bearing, to find, like Vladimir and Estragon, where he stands.
Playing through April 10
Tickets at godot.eventbrite.com