Review: ‘Waiting for Godot’ by Ubuntu Theater Project with Inferno Theatre (****)

by Charles Kruger

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This reviewer is a voting member of the San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle (SFBATCC)
This reviewer is a voting member of the San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle (SFBATCC)

Samuel Beckett’s absurdist masterpiece is universally proclaimed as one of the greatest accomplishments of 20th century theatre, familiar to every student, and produced often and enthusiastically.

Alas, it is also one of the most difficult plays in the entire canon to get right. Many a student who fell in love with Beckett under the tutelage of an insightful professor has been disappointed and bored when they see the play in performance.

But nobody need be bored for a moment if they show up for this collaboration between Ubuntu Theater Project and Inferno Theatre.

Performed in an abandoned church by a company of actors who understand what they are about, this “Godot” is funny, fascinating, exciting, and original. Yes, it is imperfect (what isn’t?), but it gets an awful lot right.

First off, the two young actors playing the tramps, Estragon (Kevin Rebultan) and Vladimir (J Jha) are physical theatre experts who understand the play’s comedy while feeling its tragedy. Kevin Rebultan, so early in his career that he is still attending a Community College in Napa, is astounding. If he can achieve such excellence now, one can only imagine a spectacular career in the wings. J Jha is more experienced, but equally unusual: they are a trangender immigrant from India with an MBA who found themselves in the highly-respected MFA-Acting program at the University of Washington. Lucky UW, lucky Ubuntu, lucky us.

And speaking of Lucky, Indigo Jackson, a recent graduate of UC Santa Cruz (are you seeing a pattern here?) is fascinating and original in her interpretation of one of the most unusual roles ever written.

Mohammad Shehata as the disturbing and violent Pozzo is the elder statesman of the cast, and a fully formed professional actor. He is not better than the others, but he does bring a gravity to his work that balances nicely.

As a boy who makes a brief appearance at the end, the very young Uma Channer holds her own in some pretty impressive company.

All of this is achieved under the assured guidance of Giulio Cesare Perrone, who is Inferno Theatre’s Producing Artistic Director. He utilizes the space beautifully, and has worked with his actors to make sure they understand every word and why it is said.

My own preference for “Waiting for Godot” would find even more exaggerated contrast between low comedy and high tragedy than this production offers, but that is a quibble. Every theatre student imagines their own production of “Godot,” and no production ever seems to achieve the ideal.

But this one comes remarkably close.

“Waiting for Godot” has its final performance tonight, . Click here for information. Note that tickets are pay-what-you-can.

Rating: ****
(For an explanation of TheatreStorm’s rating scale, click here.)
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“Waiting for Godot” by Samuel Beckett. Produced by Ubuntu Theater Project and Inferno Theater. Director: Giulio Cesare Perrone. Movement Coach: Angela Ciandro. Lighting Designer: Stephanie Anne Johnson.

Cast:

a boy: Uma Channer. Lucky: Indigo Jackson. Vladimir: J Jha. Estragon: Kevin Rebultan. Pozzo. Mohammad Shehata.

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