Regional Reviews: New Jersey
Two River Delivers First Rate Waiting for Godot
Also see Bob's review of The Beacon Hill Book Club
The landscape is a large mound with a forlorn leafless tree along a country road. Each of the two acts occurs during one of two successive evenings. Vladimir and Estragon, a pair of hobos who have seen better days, are awaiting the expected arrival of Godot. They are uncertain as to whether he will appear. It is never directly stated just who this Godot is. In the course of each act, Pozzo, a self important prosperous fellow, will arrive preceded by his servant, Lucky, whom he is driving by means of a long rope tied around the servant's neck. Also, a boy will twice arrive ostensibly with a message from Godot. And Estragon and Vladimir wait and wait.
A reasonable summary, but none such can give any indication of the depth and density of Beckett. Perhaps a quote from the text can help. When Pozzo returns in the second act, he is blind. As a result, Pozzo falls on the mound, and unable to get up by himself, he cries for help. If you read aloud Vladimir's response aloud, you will more likely note the humor and complex array of ideas in it:
There is a good deal of Christian imagery present, but the overriding existential dilemmas of Godot are universal to all mankind. Interestingly, the Irish Beckett lived much of his adult life in France and originally wrote Godot in French (first published in 1952), later writing the English translation (published 1955) himself. I find it quite interesting that, as has been noted elsewhere, the original French title (En Attendant Godot) translated literally into English is While Waiting for Godot.
The Two River production is exemplary. Performing as a vaudeville style comic duo, Keith Jochim's Estragon resembles Stan Laurel in tandem with John Ahlin's Oliver Hardy-like Vladimir. Jochim is poignant in his more open dependency on their friendship and Ahlin is exceptionally funny in dominating Jochim. Neither ever overplay the comedy or extend the shtick to the detriment of the overall shape of the tragicomedy. Allen Lewis Richman (Pozzo), Chet Carlin (Lucky), and Brian Gilbert (A Boy) lend first rate support. Young Gilbert displays a poise and maturity in his performance rare in a child actor.
Director Seth Barrish has made excellent use of the deep stage as well as the aisles of the theatre to create a sense of a large barren landscape of loneliness and desolation while bringing intimacy to the proceedings. Barrish is greatly aided by the spacious and realistic scenic design of Harry Feiner. The design, especially the ominous dark blue sky backdrop, is enhanced by the lighting design of Aaron Copp. Completing the superior design work are the costumes of Moe Schell, those of which for Estragon and Vladimir realistically appear stained and grimy beyond the call of duty.
Two River has shown remarkable daring in presenting Samuel Beckett's Waiting for Godot during their first full season in their spanking new 349 seat theatre. Artistically, Godot is an unqualified success. Hopefully, area audiences will appreciate the artistic integrity, as well as the confidence in them, that this production represents.
(Waiting for Godot is being presented by the Two River Theatre Company as part of its Samuel Beckett Festival which includes two programs of one-act plays by Beckett and additional events. Please log on to the Two River website for details.)
Waiting for Godot continues performances (Eves.: Thurs.-Sat.-8 PM/ Mats: Sat. & Sun.-3 p.m. / Weds.- 3/22-8PM; 3/29-1 p.m.) through April 2, 2006 at the Two River Theatre, 21 Bridge Avenue, Red Bank, NJ 07701. Box office: 732-345-1400; online www.trtc.org.
Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett; directed by Seth
Cast (In Order Of Appearance):