(“Waiting for Godot” plays at Marin Theatre Company from January 24 through February 17.)
Arguably, the three most influential plays ever written are Sophocles’ “Oedipus”, Shakespeare’s “Hamlet” and Beckett‘s “Waiting for Godot”. Nothing that follows can escape their shadows. “Oedipus” is the very root of our theatre; “Hamlet” defines the Renaissance; and “Godot” is widely held to be the most important dramatic work of the 20th century. This means that any production has a lot to live up to. Director Jason Minadakis and a capable cast are serving the play well at Marin Theatre Company.
“Waiting for Godot” is a puzzle to describe, because it has no plot. It is a play in which nothing happens. There are many ways to interpret this, but the general point seems to be an existential one. In modern times, religion has lost its absolute certainty as a source of meaning, and life, as a result, seems pointless. Essentially we repeat ourselves day after day, finding various ways to pass the time, while we wait for a salvation (God or “Godot”) which never comes. And then we die.
It certainly does not sound like an entertaining premise for a performance. How do you make a play interesting in which nothing happens? Beckett’s genius idea was to explore the existential situation in the character of two tramp clowns, whose humorous efforts to pass the time cannot help but be entertaining in spite of the grim assumptions of the non-plot.
Mark Bedard as Vladimir and Mark Anderson Phillips as Estragon bring superior clowning skills and vocal variation to their interpretations of the hapless tramps. Although, perhaps, they do not realize the full measure of philosophical and comic possibilities in these roles, they have the expertise to make the potentially irritating repetition of lines both continuously engaging and very funny.
James Carpenter is outstanding as Pozzo, who, Beckett fans will recall, arrives on the scene with a servant who has the unlikely name of “Lucky” and whom Pozzo controls with a rope around his neck. Some viewers have thought that Pozzo represents the devil, who is very much present, even if Godot is not. Devil or not, Carpenter’s Pozzo fascinates. Ben Johnson’s Lucky is more successful in his physical incarnation than with the famous “think speech”. Lucky’s dance is memorable. A very young Lucas Meyers does a fine job as the boy who informs the tramps that Godot will not be coming. (Sam Novick plays the boy on alternate nights).
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“Waiting for Godot” by Samuel Becket, produced by Marin Theatre Company. Director: Jason Minadakis. Scenic Designer: Liliana Duque Pineiro. Lighting Designer: York Kennedy. Costume Designer: Maggie Whitaker. Composer & Sound Designer: Chris Houston. Properties Artisan: Seren Helday.
Estragon: Mark Anderson Phillips. Vladimir: Mark Bedard. Lucky: Ben Johnson. Pozzo: James Carpenter. A Boy: Lucas Meyers and Sam Novick (alternating).
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