Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Waiting For Godot—NW Classical Theatre Collaborative—SE Portland



“Of No Importance”

This production of Samuel Beckett’s classic, avant-garde show is directed by Pat Patton and is playing at the Shoebox Theatre, 2110 SE 10th Ave., through October 11th.  For more information, go to their site at www.nwctc.org

Like the Director, Patton, I, too, have been fascinated with this play since the mid-seventies, where I first saw it in Buffalo, NY.  I was so impressed that I even wrote an homage to it, Games, which was produced a few times around the Western New York area.  What may make it so unique is that it seemingly is about nothing…where nothing happens and for any artistic-minded person, that is a challenge.  Since it may mean nothing…then it can be about anything…and the creative juices flow.

As one of the characters explains, “nothing happens, nobody comes, nobody goes, it’s awful,” which may be the theme of the show in its most basic form.  And where is the setting?  Is it an Afterlife, a Netherworld, Purgatory or Hell, a Dream, or is it taking place in the “windmills of your mind?”  Also, who does “Godot” represent?  Is he, as spelled out, God, or Death, or the Savior, or a Demon?  (Many Bible references are included in the text.)  When Beckett was asked who Godot was, on numerous occasions, some of his answers were, “I forgot” or “who is he to you?”  In other words, you’re choice.  It is, in short, about two characters…waiting...for something to happen…or someone to find them…or for some reason to go elsewhere…you decide.  But, whatever your decision, it will get you thinking.  And that may be its sole purpose.

The story (as such) is about two lonely people, friends, GoGo (Don Alder) and Didi (Grant Byington) trapped in a space and seemingly just trying to pass the time until Godot comes, or something happens to alter their course, or they get permission to leave (to where?).  To amuse themselves and to pass the time, they go through routines akin to vaudeville performers.  Other times they complain about the food, or tight shoes, or not being able to sleep, or bladder problems, or the fact they have no rope to hang themselves and thus end it all (or would it?).  But two things seem clear:  They can’t leave this space and their memory of the previous day has been erased or seriously altered.

Their world is not entirely unpopulated, as soon appear Pozzo (Todd Hermanson), a cruel but prissy slave-driver and his servant, Lucky (Steve Vanderzee), a sad man, seemingly destined to be pushed around all his life.  They purport to be on the way to the Fair where Pozzo is to sell Lucky and yet it seems they need each other (as do Gogo and DiDi for that matter).  They also act, at times, much like a vaudeville team, too.  And one more character to appear is the Boy (Eric Lyness), an innocent, messenger from Godot, who only answers questions with polite replies but also is the only one to have any insight as to who Godot is.  For more explanations as to the story’s progress, you’ll have to see it.

I have to admit I loved the simple but effective set (designer, Tim Stapleton) and the tree is terrific (installer, Michael DeLapp).  And Patton is a consummate professional for many years and he is at the top of his game here.  This would be a difficult play for any director (or actor) as, although the meaning may be ambiguous, the actors and director must have a point of view, as they need to create their own reality and project that.  While watching Patton’s interpretation, I felt I almost understood it but, more importantly, I believed they understood it.  Well done, sir.

The actors, likewise, are truly entrenched in their roles.  Byington is wonderful in portraying a guy who waffles between being the man-in-charge, to being just another cog in a giant wheel.  Alder perfects the Lenny-like, poor-soul persona but then comes up with witticisms and wisdom beyond his station in life.  And these two actors are extraordinary in the way they play off each other.  They are a perfect match and never out of character.  Bravo!

Hermanson is also a bit of a Jekyll/Hyde personality.  At one point being oh-so-proper in his demeanor then being very base in his behavior.  He always seems to need an audience.  He portrays this oily demi-god to perfection.  Vanderzee is perfect in the seemingly thankless role of a mostly mute character, then when he gets his chance to speak, after wearing the thinking cap, his stream-of-consciousness thoughts pour out like a dam bursting, leaving no room for meaning or interpreting what he says.  Nicely done.  And Lyness is fine as the obedient messenger.

A side point, Pozzo and Lucky’s relationship are not unlike the Sorcerer and his Apprentice (Mickey Mouse) in the Disney, animated film, Fantasia.  Mickey is the mute slave of a powerful wizard but, when he puts on the magician’s cap, he is the master and his minions do his work.  Might be the inspiration for those two characters.

I recommend this play.  If you do choose to see it, please tell them Dennis sent you.