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Waiting for Godot (Druid Theatre)

This Druid Theatre of Ireland revival of Beckett’s masterpiece goes for laughs at the expense of depth and is overall pleasing without making a great impact. 

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Aaron Monaghan and Marty Rea in a scene from the Druid Theatre of Ireland’s revival of “Waiting for Godot” (Photo credit: Richard Termine)

Darryl Reilly

Darryl Reilly, Critic

Yoga tree poses, pratfalls, and rapid-fire verbal delivery reminiscent of Abbott and Costello routines are characteristic of how director Garry Hynes answers the question of what to do with Samuel Beckett’s masterpiece, Waiting for Godot in this Druid Theatre of Ireland revival. The quandary as with other classics of dramatic literature is of traditional versus innovation. Here, the playing area is contained by a lighted frame that changes colors symbolizing that a deliberate concept is afoot as does an actor sitting on a rock for a period of time before the play actually begins.

Ms. Hynes has the cast at full speed emphasizing slapstick and employing stylized poses and gestures.  There’s exaggerated choreography-like movement such as extending legs and dipping down, grabbing at each other and jumping. Movement director Nick Winston’s efforts are accomplished if overdone. The plethora of gags and set up punchline recitation gets laughs at the expense of emotional resonance. A few bits are quietly played due to the nature of those specific passages and are quite lovely. Overall, there is a lack of visceral depth to this arguably superficial treatment. The ending brings benign silence rather than communal sighs.

The tall Marty Rea as Vladimir and the shorter Aaron Monaghan as Estragon make a great team as they carry on and give charming performances. The charismatic Rory Nolan’s Pozzo is suitably grandiose, tyrannical and pitiful. As the suffering bound “menial” Lucky, appealing Garrett Lombard is touching but because of the production’s light tone doesn’t get to explore much of the pathos of the role. At the performance attended, the rotating part of The Boy was played by Jaden Pace with measured youthful flair.

Aaron Monaghan, Garrett Lombard, Marty Rea and Rory Nolan in a scene from the Druid Theatre of Ireland’s revival of “Waiting for Godot” (Photo credit: Richard Termine)

An earth tone backdrop with subtle shadowy shapes suggesting an indeterminate vista, later the backdrop becomes blue and a balloon of the moon is pulled across. There’s a scrawny dead tree and an oval rock on view. Scenic designer Francis O’Connor does a fine job of realizing the Beckettian universe though that lighted frame is a cryptic distraction. Mr. O’Connor’s artful costume design has the requisite bowler hats, baggy pants and dusty boots. Lighting designer James F. Ingalls achieves the right atmosphere with steady brightness and fade outs as the days end. Gregory Clarke’s sound design is subtly proficient.

Day after day, two tramps bicker in a field as they expect someone who never shows up. Since Waiting for Godot’s 1953 Paris premiere, its enduring themes of the passage of time exacerbating the pain of the human condition which was initially baffling to critics and audiences has become familiar and part of the collective consciousness. “Nothing to be done” and “I can’t go on, I’ll go on” are now catchphrases. The play has been internationally performed by inmates in prisons, by all-star casts, by companies of varying ages and races, and notably staged by Susan Sontag in war-torn Sarajevo in 1993.

For many theatergoers, the definitive incarnation might be the 1987 Gate Theatre of Dublin’s revival that was seen for many years around the world, including an international tour during Beckett’s centennial in 2006 and lastly again in Ireland in 2008.  Precisely directed by Walter Asmus and vividly performed by an Irish cast, it was a straightforward version that memorably achieved Beckett’s intentions with affective simplicity.

This Waiting for Godot is overall pleasing without making much of an impact.

Waiting for Godot (through November 13, 2018)

White Light Festival

Druid Theatre

Gerald W. Lynch Theater at John Jay College, 524 West 59th Street, in Manhattan

For tickets, call 212-721-6500 or visit www.WhiteLightFestival.org

Running time: two hours and 30 minutes with one intermission

Share your thoughts in the comment section below.

Darryl Reilly
About Darryl Reilly (561 Articles)
A native New Yorker, Darryl Reilly graduated from NYU with a BFA in Cinema Studies. For the Broadway League, (formerly The League of American Theatres and Producers) he developed, and for five years conducted their Broadway Open House Tours, which took visitors through The Theatre District and into several Broadway theaters. He contributed to Broadway Musicals Show by Show: Sixth Edition (Applause Books). Since 2013, he has reviewed theater, cabaret, and concerts for Theaterscene.net.

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