I have really great memories involving “Waiting for Godot.” Decades ago when I was in college, my friends and I would get together and read from existential and absurdist plays just for entertainment. Beckett and Ionesco were our favorites. I remember us not being able to get through more than a few lines of “Godot” without cracking up. There may have been some chemical enhancement involved.
For that reason, I have been eager to see the current Henley Street production but the number of possible nights for me to see it dwindled quickly. So I was happy that the smart folks at Henley did an industry night on Tuesday. Even so, I could only manage to get there to catch the first act. I was very disappointed not to be able to see the whole thing, but I also felt that, barring a radical reinterpretation from Mr. Ricks, I wasn’t going to miss any surprise ending. I really hope no one associated with the production read any kind of affront into my early departure; my reasons for leaving had nothing to do with the quality of the show.
I enjoyed the first act but I also feel like time may have hardened my sensibilities just a bit against existentialism. Perhaps it’s having much more of a stake in the real world that makes getting into that existential space more difficult. Or maybe it’s the lack of chemical enhancement. But one thing I hope I will always appreciate is the ability of Beckett to look at even the most serious things with a skewed view, his healthy way of not taking it all (particularly himself) so damn seriously. After all, as Christine Walters recently told me, life should be fun, even the serious parts.
As my colleague Mr. Griset said, I can’t really think of a better production of the show. Bob Nelson and Bob Jones both seem like natural comedians and one great aspect of the production is the unique quality of each of their voices, which adds new and unusual comic notes to already wacky dialogue. And speaking of voice: Foster Solomon is a fantastic Pozzo, using both his size and his booming voice to bring a larger-than-life stature to that character. Jerome Weiss manages to be both heartbreaking and very funny as Lucky, also incorporating his stature – exceedingly lean and athletic into his characterization, and young Mr. Millman does a fine job in his short interlude on stage.
All of the elements are there for this production but I found myself growing a bit impatient with the course of the “action,” even during just one act. But this is Beckett and, to borrow a phrase from the show, there’s “nothing to be done” about the source material. It is brilliant and challenging and distinctive and sometimes just odd. Mr. Ricks mines it well and, particularly if you haven’t seen “Godot” before, it’s worth checking out.