Wednesday, November 06, 2013
ARTS EMERSON Waiting For Godot
Waiting For Godot
Gare St Lazare Players ( Ireland)
Co-produced by the Dublin Theatre Festival
The Paramount Theatre
559 Washington Street
October 31 –November 10
Reviewer: Amy R. Tighe
Indeed, I too have been waiting. Since my 80 year old mother died last year, I have been waiting to hear her voice again, even as upsetting as it had been to hear it for the past thirty years. I am deeply impatient, waiting for her to tell me if she finally found out about God for herself, instead of making me take all those pilgrimages. Just because she is dead does not mean it is over between us. Somedays, quite the contrary. I only need from her the sign I can believe.
There are very few phrases in the English speaking word that have this much power. “I have a dream,” “Houston, we have the technology, “ once upon a time,” and “Waiting for Godot.” I am hard, pressed to find new things to say about a phrase that imprints so many of us at the very moment we learn to speak.
I am surprised to see that I myself, who always tries to maintain an inner clarity in order to be able to inhale new imprints, I feel the trance of Beckett as well. I am waiting. For my mother’s empathic caress, for my deceased brother who told me about the play he read in 11th grade 45 years ago. “Get it kid? God- ot—its GOD, stupid.” I am waiting for the government to collapse, for my country to arise, and to hear his voice again at my table.
The current production of Waiting for Godot , a world premiere from the Gare St Lazare Payers, (from Ireland) and playing at the Paramount this week is that rare and delicate ritual you cherish and don’t allow yourself to perform enough. Sitting in a full house, in the transcendent renovation of the Paramount, it seemed as if each and every person was quietly quoting their favorite line in sync with the actors, if not repeating the entire play as if in common prayer. Excited exhales are heard all night long.
And yet, there are several deep moments when the actors stop, face us as audience, and wait. Then, the historical hall becomes a timeless meditation room, completely still for a minor eternity. I stopped breathing once or twice during the night, I am sure.
Even the set is waiting. In the background, the enormous full moon faints and revives throughout the play. The stage itself is a mirror of the moon, but it’s also not—it’s off-kilter, has a barren tree, and one small crater that Gogo (Estragon) uses as his personal throne. The set is uncomfortable and tranquilizing. The moons do not wane or crescent. They are unhappy reflections, either stark or dark, yet always whole.
The over-60 couple in front of me are retired, and now are writers, and “have seen Becket for decades and Godot 10 times.” In all their years of going to theatre, this is their favorite play. The young Hong Kong Chinese woman next to me has never heard of Becket and is bored, and I tell her that is the point of the play. She ignores me for the rest of the evening.
The actors have lost their edge because the audience knows these characters so well that there is little the players can do except—well—play. And so they do. Simple and startling performances glitter brilliantly on stage. I still feel Lucky’s rope and carry the sound of his chronic shuffling. Estragon’s foot still annoys me. Against an ageless and endless overly intelligent discussion of meaning, interpretation and inquiry, these players show us that what is real stays real: Cruelty to each other, pain in the body, a profound desire to comfort and encourage. In the experienced shadows of the Gare St Lazare troupe’s moon, we can lilt.
During intermission, a group of students from Concord Academy are chittering away, and I ask “What do you think of God-oh versus Goe doe?” What is sweetest is that they don’t question a random stranger asking questions, and they instantly respond, “Oh do we even have to know? I mean, isn’t the not knowing a way of knowing?”
This is what I wait for, and here I am finally found. In this brick and mortar building, the conversation about our theatre of every day life is available with any other person. Hosted by the eternal Muse Beckett, played out by finely tuned performers, and held in place by Arts Emerson, we have come, and every one of us is asking.
As Estragon says “There is nothing to be done.” And so, here, at ARTS Emerson, we do just that, all of us, together.