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.
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
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