In the interminable dialogue of Waiting for Godot, it’s hard to pin down the exact moment you realize what a bleak farce it is, how brutal humanity, or what little value life has. But it seeps out of every crack of the dialogue and every fissure of the character’s faces. The play goes on and occasionally you laugh, but, if you’re like me, you grimace more often.
My poor boyfriend thought he was going to a light comedy last night, and he turned to me in the middle of the first act to whisper, “This is horrible.” “Yes,” I enthusiastically agreed. Horribly, brilliantly good in this adaptation by the Roundabout Theater.
The Roundabout puts on a lively version of it, relatively speaking, and Nathan Lane, Bill Irwin, John Goodman, and John Glover create a sense of crackling immediacy as these good-times clowns float over the darker undertones with Vaudevillian abandon. I agree with the NY Times’s Ben Brantley who feels he has never known the play to pass so quickly. They allow the play itself to be the star here, with the rhythm of unending cycle, with its half-hearted jokes, with its struggle to use up its time.
Goodman with his floundering bulk was fantastic. Glover’s Lucky is horrifically wonderful, especially in his entrance and the revelation of his neck. Irwin and Lane were at ease and competent. Yet “Didi? Diiiidi?” coming from Nathan Lane’s mouth is the most cloying part of the performance, where Lane seems to be playing himself rather than Estragon. It’s that strident voice of his that doesn’t belong in this play.
It’s an astonishing play really. I’m shocked at how great it is: how sparse, how suggestive, how open-ended and complete. So despite my better judgment (and probably my sanity), I’m off to wallow in the bleakness of the script. You know, ‘to give the impression I exist’ and all that. Between this play and Lear, I might need a little cheering up soon.
Oh, and like Lear, I’ve managed to review this play just before it’s run ends. Sorry–I plan to work on that.