The New Repertory Theatre in Newton Highlands celebrates the 50th anniversary of the first production of Samuel Beckett’s seminal modern play Waiting for Godot in great style with a stunning production directed by Artistic Director Rick Lombardo.
Austin Pendleton, returning to the New Rep in the role of Vladimir, is paired with Boston based actor/playwright John Kuntz as Estragon. Together they execute a comic tramp ballet that perfectly echoes Beckett’s exquisite language of human emotions and conditions.
The look of the production also perfectly complements the spare text. Scenic designer Hector Fernandez’ carefully chosen line and color palette provide a beautifully rendered “nothing” populated only with the requisite scrawny tree and single, serviceable rock.
Mention must also be made of Lombardo’s physical casting. The imposing statures of Ken Baltin (Pozzo) and Bates Wilder (Lucky) serve to instantly diminish the resolve of the vigilant pair hanging on by a thread at their appointed post. And the cherubic Gabe Goodman (The Boy), helped here by costume designer Frances Nelson McSherry, is appropriately apparition-like when he shows up as Godot’s messenger.
Although it can be argued that nothing happens in this play - or more accurately “nothing happens twice,” since it encompasses two acts representing successive days of waiting - Beckett gives us a full spectrum of activities and interactions that beings engage in. These range from simple acts of kindness between two loners who have little to offer each other to the grotesque acts of cruelty perpetrated by a despot slave master encumbered by his possessions.
There is no definitive answer as to what Waiting for Godot is about, nor will there ever be. My assumption, based on a passing acquaintance with the play, is that the title referred to waiting for God - or waiting for death, depending on your point of view about that event. After seeing this production and learning more about the circumstances of Beckett’s writing of it, the play rings truer as a wake up call that we are meant to pay closer mind to what takes place between birth and death.
Beckett, an expatriate from Dublin who was active in the French resistance during the Nazi occupation, wrote the play in post-WWII Paris. Seeing it at this moment in time, his most powerful suggestion is that the futility of human existence is our refusal to learn from past mistakes. The slim hope the play offers is the possibility that we do have the cognitive ability to alter our condition in the present and not simply wait for an inevitable future.
This is a superb rendering of an extremely difficult text, a rare opportunity to see an important play given the theatrical life it deserves. And the first of the post-show discussions with the actors and director, offered after each of the 3:00pm Sunday matinees, offered a fascinating glimpse of how this was accomplished.
Waiting for Godot, now through February 9th, at the New Rep Theater, 54 Lincoln Street, Newton Highlands, Mass. Tickets are available by calling the box office at 617-332-1646, by email at email@example.com or online at www.newrep.org. Performance schedule and directions to the theatre also available online.
Special Note: A reading of Austin Pendleton’s play Orson‘s Shadow, followed by a discussion with the author, will take place at the New Rep theatre on Monday, January 20th at 7:30. Admission is complimentary, but call 617-332-1646 for a reservation.