Waiting in lines, waiting for your crush to ask you out, waiting to get the job of your dreams, waiting for your life to really begin, waiting for changes to come to make your life easier, Waiting for Godot. Samuel Beckett’s play, which is currently previewing at the Mark Taper Forum in downtown Los Angeles raises a lot of questions and will perhaps make one rethink the way they live their lives.
This production, directed by Michael Arabian was in its second preview on Thursday night, yet it was extremely polished and exquisitely acted. With a superb cast staring Beckett veteran Alan Mandell and featuring Academy Award® nomine James Cromwell alongside three other phenomenal Beckett interpreters, this play is in good hands. Waiting for Godot is a controversial play, and is often billed as a play about nothing. Though very little plot wise happens in the two plus hours this play runs, more is said in this ‘play about nothing’ then most people say in their lifetimes. There are many interpretations, some think Beckett was referring to the wait for God, some say it is a political play, but what is for sure is it can be whatever the audience needs it to be at the time they watch it.
Scenic Designer John Iacovelli has created a transformative set; this play has one setting: a dirt road by a lone tree. The stage at the Forum is circular and the stage is surrounded by rocks, which on two sides of the stage has been made into steps that the actors run up and down. The lone tree grows leaves without most of the audience knowing at the end of the second act. Every part of the setting is breathtaking and precise; it should be, for Beckett wrote most of it in the play description. The circular theater could make it hard for some parts of the audience to see, but Arabian has staged it perfectly. The actors perform to every angle, and often traipse around in a circle in a Stooge like fashion.
Godot features two men standing by the above mentioned tree waiting for a man named Godot (GAH-DOH). Estragon (Mandell) and Vladimir (Barry McGovern) interact with each other as the Marx Brothers did in the early 20th century. While they wait, they encounter a rich man, Pozzo (Cromwell) and his slave Lucky (Hugo Armstrong). Vladimir and Estragon are both scared of and amazed at both Pozzo and Lucky, but the interaction does little more than pass the time for the two waiting men.
The constant bantering between Mandell and McGovern often brings up the question of what is life about and what is the human race waiting for? The same words are often exchanged between the two men, when Estragon declares that he is leaving, Vladimir answers back “we can’t leave.” Estragon asks “why not?” Vladimir responds that “we are waiting for Godot”. And each and every time, Estragon responds with “ahhhh, yes”. We often forget what it is we are actually waiting for, and perhaps the message of the play is that we are not to wait for anything, for if we wait to long we will no longer remember how long we have been waiting or why we are waiting for it in the first place.
Arabian’s Godot is playing at the Forum until April 22nd, and if in fact there is more to tweak during the remaining previews then this will sure to be a mind-blowing performance. Usually I also mention things the production could have done better, but I have nothing to add or subtract. Beckett has written a masterpiece that was resonant in 1953 when it first premiered in New York and is extremely resonant today, over fifty years later. Sadly, this play will probably always be relevant for the human race is known for waiting for change to happen. However, perhaps with this dynamic and thought provoking performance running in Los Angeles for the next month, a few people will be inspired to get up and change whatever they want to see changed.