If you watch Samuel Beckett's "Waiting For Godot," you're going to want to think about it. Don't. In the words of the classic play's title, wait.
The key to appreciating this much-debated work comes in the audience's willingness to take it as is. Vladimir and Estragon sit by a bare tree, looking for ways to pass the time while they wait for a man named Godot. Time has given us the advantage in that we already know Godot will never appear. You're going to be tempted to dwell on why he doesn't appears and what he represents, and when you actually experience the play for the first time, you're going to want to know who these ridiculously unrealistic characters really are.
But stop modern sense for a moment and enjoy the show, because these nonsensical characters have an endearing and amusing, albeit absurd, show to put on. And sometimes the best stories are the ones that bring sense out of nonsense. After the two-act show has finished, feel free to think as hard as you like; it means something different to each person. But during the show, give yourself license to take the play at face value.
Beckett, himself, refused to elaborate on who the characters were beyond the lines on the page, and those lines have plenty of potency when delivered by the quick-witted and sharp-tongued Mark Anderson Phillips (Estragon) and Mark Bedard (Vladimir) at Marin Theatre Company. The two play off each other so well, their slap-stick comedy act surpasses even the great "Who's on First" of Abbot and Costello fame. Think Bob Hope and Bing Crosby combined with a bit of physical clown humor and the best of Charlie Chaplin. With a bowler hat in hand, each takes on unique traits. One shuffles his feet. The other limps methodically. One has the smarts, the other the gullible innocence. They even have the most adorable nicknames for each other.
James Carpenter makes an equally haughty and intriguing Pozzo, the wealthy man who ruthlessly drags his servant, Lucky, by a rope. Ben Johnson offers bizarre personality and telling expressions in the mostly silent role of Lucky, only breaking out of his repetitious servant duties to give a short dance and to "think" for an extremely fast and impossible-to-make-out intellectual speech, one of the most memorable moments of the play. Lucas Meyers and Sam Novick also alternate in the role of the boy who comes with the news that Godot will stay away for another day.
With incredibly clear diction, this cast makes it easy to follow Beckett's whims of simplistic, everyday dialogue. In a show so dependent on the actors' ability to tell the story through strong acting, Marin Theatre Company triumphantly succeeds. As accomplished so well by Marin, the audience leaves with a tingling need to discuss "Waiting for Godot" and a growing eagerness to share.
WAITING FOR GODOT
Marin Theatre Company
Through February 17