Still waiting

Waiting for Godot

By Samuel Beckett
Directed by Brian Snapp
Fugue Theatre Company
Chashama Experimental Theatre
135 West 42nd St. (879-6983)
Equity showcase (closes July 28)
Review by Ken Jaworowski

Waiting for Godot is a play of mammoth peaks and vast valleys. Scenes of hyperactive slapstick follow intervals of listless sorrow, while proclamations about human destiny usher in digressions of inane babble. In its spare plot, two tramps suffer through a never-ending wait for a cryptic visitor -- nothing happens. Yet everything transpires.

While the Fugue Theatre Company occasionally touched the play’s high and low points, the cast and director most often chose a neutral ground, forgoing the opportunity to explore the farthest poles of Samuel Beckett’s ideas. The production certainly had merit, yet such a middle-of-the-road approach made this Godot more a theatrical exercise than a philosophical exploration.

Billy Steel as Estragon and Richard Hutzler as Vladimir worked well together. Their timing was commendable, their friendship convincing. Individually, however, deeper feelings waned, particularly in the inherent sadness of the story; pauses seemed cut short, silences rushed over. Godot is a play with roots in vaudeville and pratfalls, but it is also steeped in melancholy and confusion. Steel and Hutzler were usually merry in their gags, yet they lacked tragic, exhausting lows to contrast absurd, energetic highs. As Pozzo, Eric Kochmer brought plenty of vigor, while Antonio Edwards Suarez, playing both Lucky and the Boy, had the widest range despite portraying the two characters with the fewest lines.

Director Brian Snapp notes in the program that he is a first-time director of Beckett. His proficient direction may have been too cautious. Some of Snapp’s decisions, such as positioning the Boy with his back continually to the audience, were shrewd, and increased the discomfiting, anonymous tone of the piece. Yet without a wider scope of emotions, the play frequently felt like a run-through, neither laugh-out-loud funny nor tear-jerkingly sad. Some of the author’s intentions were captured, though never fully released to the audience.

Beckett’s themes are among the most thought-provoking in all of theater. Any serious attempt to stage his work, particularly Waiting for Godot, should be commended. Fugue’s efforts were unquestionably praiseworthy. Even with such lapses the production was capable, if not inspiring. This may not be a performance worth waiting for, but now that it has arrived, it’s at least worth a look.

 Box Score:

Writing: 2
Directing: 1
Acting: 1
Sets: 1
Costumes: 1
Lighting/Sound: 1

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Copyright 2002 Ken Jaworowski