“It’s been a half-century since Waiting for Godot was last performed on Broadway,” said Terry Teachout in The Wall Street Journal. Audiences in the 1950s regarded Samuel Beckett’s existential rumination as a “piece of avant-garde trickery.” Today, Beckett’s two-act about two Chaplinesque tramps who wait interminably for “a man who may or may not be God” is considered a masterpiece. Productions of Godot don’t get any better than director Anthony Page’s revival. He’s coaxed “magnificent performances” out of stars Nathan Lane, Bill Irwin, John Goodman, and John Glover. This Godot is a revelation: “beautifully simple and straightforward—and very, very funny, as Godot should be.”
A “strong, naturalistic director,” Page knows that Beckett’s play “needs no accessories,” said Ben Brantley in The New York Times. So he never diverges from its brilliantly minimal structure. Santo Loquasto’s set design, on the other hand, is a bit of a departure. Beckett called for a minimally accoutered stage, with a dirt mound and a single tree. Loquasto adds a boulder-strewn landscape, presumably to cater to Broadway theatergoers’ demand for “good-looking” productions. Casting the likes of Lane and Goodman—actors with “marquee appeal who are not generally associated with classical drama”—seems based on similar motivations. But these two experienced hams give this Godot an unparalleled sense of “comic timing.”
If the goal of a Godot revival is to attain “theatrical and existential bliss,” consider it accomplished, said Linda Winer in Newsday. Few actors have inhabited the “rags and bowler hats” of Vladimir and Estragon as brilliantly as Irwin and Lane. As Estragon, Lane gives “his most disciplined performance in years.” Irwin, best known for his theatrical clown work, wonderfully exploits his “vaudeville physicality to find the shape-shifting emotions of Vladimir.” Goodman plays Pozzo—the bullying slave master whom the tramps encounter during their vigil—as an “unmoored Macy’s balloon in the wind.” Together, they’ve created a Godot “against which others will be measured for a long time.”
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