Samuel Becket’s 1953 masterpiece, Waiting for Godot is always one of the first titles that come to mind whenever someone asks me to name my favorite plays. I’ve read it or listened to audio recording of it many times. This was the fourth time I’ve seen it performed onstage. It never fails to mesmerize me.
The set was brilliant. Staged on the long, narrow thrust of the Tom Patterson Theater, the stage floor was covered with what appears to be black vinyl. It looked wet and reflected some light onto the performance area.
All the action of the play takes place on a narrow white path; imagine a piece of white ribbon lying casually on an ebony surface. It is curved and varies in height. It is a section of road, neither straight nor flat, that does not appear to come from, nor lead to, anywhere. There was a medium-sized rock at about the mid-point and a metal sculpture at one end suggesting a tree.
The plot of the play is heartbreaking simple. Two men, Estragon and Vladimir, are in desperate circumstances and they struggle to hold onto the hope that their circumstances will be improved with the arrival of Godot who, we’re told, has promised to meet them there.
This is the second time I’ve seen Stephen Ouimet, one of my favorite actors at Stratford, in the role of Estragon. He played the same role in Stratford’s 1998 production. This time he plays opposite Tom Rooney, who is rapidly becoming a favorite, as Vladimir. Beckett described this play as a “tragicomedy”. Together, Ouimet & Rooney generated a great deal of laughter; some humorous, some nervous.
Brian Dennehy did well in the role of Pozzo. I’d worried that, due to Mr. Dennehy’s stature as an actor, the balance among the characters might be disrupted. It wasn’t. Mr D. demonstrated his skill in interpreting Beckett a few seasons ago when he appeared in the single-character play; Krapp’s Last Tape.
I’m honestly not sure why I am so drawn to this play but I always find it moving. I’d been looking forward to this performance for almost a year. I was not disappointed.