For almost 70 years, Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot has remained one of the greatest enigmas of modern theatre and that remains one of its greatest appeals.Even though Beckett himself cautioned against trying to read too much into his tragicomedy, it’s almost impossible to sit through a production and not wonder about its political, social, religious, humanitarian and philosophical implications.Perhaps it would be best when venturing out to see Black Radish’s production of Waiting for Godot at the GRAND until May 12 to do as Beckett suggested to people coming to see the version he directed in 1975.He suggested the audience look at Waiting for Godot as a series of games, and for the actors to make their production clear and transparent and never dry.I’m not entirely sure about absolute clarity and transparency in Black Radish’s Waiting for Godot, but it’s definitely not dry.
Andy Curtis (Vladimir) with Tyrell Crews (Lucky) in the background in Black Radish’s Waiting for Godot. Courtesy, Jeff Yee
Under Denise Clarke’s assured and confident direction, this Waiting for Godot is witty one moment and poignant the next and every time it seems to be making so much sense it switches into silly vaudeville routines. It’s as if Clarke is daring us to make sense of all the nonsense and laughing at us when we fail.Christopher Hunt says he and Andy Curtis have been talking for a decade now about playing Becket’s tramps who are stranded in an absurd world and it shows in the ease with which they inhabit these characters. Their camaraderie on that stage says so much about the need for connection and the value of friendship.Curtis’s Vladimir or Didi is the more philosophical and optimistic of the two, while Hunt’s Estragon or Gogo is the practical pessimist.Didi and Gogo are often played as physical opposites like Arnold Schwarzenegger and Danny DeVito in Twins or as a comic and straight man such as Bud Abbott and Lou Costello or Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly. Not so with Curtis and Hunt who look remarkably alike as if they really are two sides of the same coin. They are more like a pair of Buster Keatons and they have developed routines that are a homage to this great silent comedian.
Duval Lang (Pozzo) with Tyrell Crews (Lucky) in the background. Courtesy, Jeff Yee
Chris Bolin /
In each act, Didi and Gogo’s ramblings and arguments are interrupted by the flamboyant landowner Pozzo (Duval Lang) and his slave, the not-so-lucky Lucky (Tyrell Crews).Pozzo, who looks like a circus ringmaster, leads the suitcase laden Lucky about with a huge, long rope barking commands that his servant dutifully obeys.I know we’re not supposed to see Pozzo as the embodiment of history’s tyrants and Lucky as the masses they subjugated, but Lang and Crew’s performances are so wonderfully and theatrically raw that it’s difficult to discard that image. Crews delivers Lucky’s one gobblygoop tirade with masterful aplomb.Anton Matsigura plays The Boy who enters each act to inform Didi and Gogo that Godot will not come this particular day but most likely tomorrow with a kind of deadpan innocence that is a bit unnerving.Terry Gunvordahl has turned the GRAND’s Flanagan Theatre into a bleak, austere world into which Pozzo, Lucky and The Boy can enter and exit, but where Didi and Gogo are trapped. Gunvordahl’s lighting and Peter Moller’s sound design intensify the feelings of isolation, boredom, panic and despair that permeate Beckett’s play.You’ll be royally entertained by Black Radish’s Waiting for Godot and you might even be a tad enlightened as well.WAITING FOR GODOTBy Samuel BeckettDirected by Denise ClarkeThe GRAND until May 12FOUR STARS