By David Walters
Known as the play where nothing happens, twice, Samuel Beckett‘s Waiting for Godot is back with us starring Michael Shannon and Paul Sparks and is currently playing in Brooklyn at Theatre for a New Audience. This production was scheduled to be done in 2020, but Covid put a stop to that. The rights were hung onto during the interval and these two friends and this theater company just couldn’t let it go.
In this rendition, something does absolutely happen on stage and it’s because of Michael and Paul’s long working relationship that they bring to their performances. The familiarity, comfortableness, and relaxation of their coupleness is what makes that something happen.
Famous productions of Godot in the past, Martin and Williams, Stewart and McKellen, Lane and Irwin, have all capitalized on those relationships, creating something out of nothing in this play where nothing happens. What does happen and will keep this play in revivals forever, is life. Beckett said that this show is not about anything and those that look to apply meaning, “I cannot see the point of it.” What there is in the play are relationships. Relationships of need that feed off each other. Though not married, these characters act like a long-established couple who have been relationshipping for a long long time. That’s what we search for and identify with in the stories we seek out, that connection within relationships.
If you haven’t seen it, you at least know of it. The setup in this production is very simple, two men who have known each other for a long time are waiting on an abandoned highway, somewhere near a tree. Waiting for a person named Godot. They are told by Godot’s messenger that he will come tomorrow. They wait and a day(s) pass. They are again told by Godot’s messenger that he will come, tomorrow. They continue to wait.
Waiting for Godot reflects the need for connection and allows an audience to see the comic absurdity amidst the tragedy of living, and, to ‘go on’ despite. It’s Beckett’s most produced work, filled with many instructions and restrictions about set design, costume, and precise stage directions that if not followed, will get a show immediately shut down. Beckett’s estate owns it until 2059 when it will be in the public domain 70 years after the author’s death. I’m sorry I won’t be around that year to see the proliferation of productions on this and other planets. I would really look forward to Estragon and Vladimir being all manner of couples that have been together for a lifetime and what that would bring to the performance.
Meanwhile, this production, with this coupling, is a good reminder of the strength and longevity of the play.
Waiting for Godot By Samuel Beckett. Directed by Arin Arbus
It features Michael Shannon as Estragon and Paul Sparks as Vladimir, Toussaint Francois Battiste as a boy, Jeff Biehl as Lucky, and Ajay Naidu as Pozzo
November 4 – December 3, 2023
TFANA, Polonsky Shakespeare Center, 262 Ashland Place Brooklyn, NY 11217
Running time: 2 hours and 25 minutes plus one 15-minute intermission
As always, this is just one person’s opinion in a world filled with them.