ROUNDABOUT BLOG

Message from the Artistic Director: Waiting for Godot

Posted on: April 1st, 2009 by Todd Haimes

I’m thrilled to have Nathan Lane (Estragon) and Bill Irwin (Vladimir), two of the best theatrical clowns of their generation, returning to Roundabout for this production. They are teaming with John Goodman and John Glover, whose Pozzo and Lucky I cannot wait to share with you. They are all working with the great director Anthony Page, who has been known for his ability to bring a new perspective to well-known work (like Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? and A Doll’s House). It will surely be a unique production of this great play.

It’s difficult to understand now, when it has been canonized as a classic for more than fifty years, just how close "Waiting for Godot" Waiting for Godot came to being swept aside as a theatrical experiment gone wrong.

The play premiered (as En Attendant Godot) in 1953 at the Theatre de Babylone in Paris. The Irishman Samuel Beckett originally wrote the play in French, the language of his adopted home, and the Parisian audience greeted Godot with puzzlement. Some enjoyed the play, while others were perplexed, and still others simply hated the piece. It was clear that this play was something different, but what that “something different” really meant was a bit foggier.

When the play was translated into English by the playwright himself, it was met with similar confusion in England and the United States. And who could blame the audiences for not knowing what to make of a play in which, as has been famously stated, nothing happens – twice! After all, Godot had made its appearance at a time when kitchen-sink dramas and the stuff of gritty realism were the new trend on stage. Beckett’s existential work, playing with time and memory, quietly tackling the big questions without following rules of logic or rationality, was an utter anomaly. But the play gathered enough champions who recognized that, for a play in which nothing happens, quite a lot was happening in this seemingly simple portrait of two men on a country road, standing under a tree, waiting.

Theatrical styles have changed over the years, and while Godot has remained constant in its originality (in spite of its many imitators), it’s the kind of play that, to some extent, can’t help but take on new meaning from the time and place in which it is performed. Perhaps this is why Godot has had successful productions in places like San Quentin Prison and post-Katrina New Orleans – places in which the idea of waiting for something or someone that may never come is all too familiar. This is why the play is so ripe for revival. What does Godot mean in our own new landscape? The world has undergone a huge amount of change since the play last appeared on Broadway, and the tramps Vladimir and Estragon may appear very different to us today.

I would argue that it’s impossible to watch Godot and not have a strong reaction one way or the other, so I hope that you will share your reactions with me. For this play in particular, I am truly eager to hear what you have say about the production.

Todd Haimes



Related Categories:
2008-2009 Season, Waiting for Godot


13 Comments
  1. Michele Serino

    April 16, 2009

    First and foremost the acting was suberb!

    Secondly, I’m still trying to figure out what it all meant but in a good way.

    Lastly, John Goodman’s agility is amazing!

    Reply
  2. Paul

    April 19, 2009

    Waiting for Godot

    Well I was not sure what to make of the first Act, but after the intermission I was quiet intrigued by the play.

    The performance by all the actors is top notch. I think I really appreciated the play after a good night’s sleep and thinking about it the day after!!

    Go see it and be open to the experience.

    Reply
  3. Basil Whiting

    April 20, 2009

    My wife and I saw this many years ago in a prior production, somewhere, sometime and was a confused and taken by it then as last night. Lots of big themes, lots of meaninglessness. Absolutely superb acting by all four actors, but for me Bill Irwin stole the show. What a clown! What gate and mannerisms!

    Reply
  4. Floyd Smith

    May 1, 2009

    Marvelous acting, staging, and direction, as expected from the Roundabout.

    I have never studied or read reviews of the play, so the only insights to its meaning are my own. The first act is mainly entertainment, since it takes the second act to bring some perspective. And more thought after the play brought more perspective and insight.

    I don’t see the play as a example of people waiting, in general, for something to happen that doesn’t. To me, it was more specific. Two men who have been failures in life, have nothing except each other, are old and losing their mental capacities, and have nothing to do in life, are waiting to die and meet God (Godot). The little boy, who is from father time, represents the fact that the men will have to wait another day to die.

    Pozzo represents success, greed, arrogance, insensitivity, etc., He is penalized by losing his eyesight, and his life is running out of time. I suppose Lucky represents the downtrodden.

    Bottom line: the reason to see the play is the Roundabout’s superb production, a production that has a lot more merit than than Beckett’s rather pretentious play.

    Reply
  5. K. Eisner

    May 6, 2009

    Frankly, I was not looking forward to seeing “Godot”, as I’d seen it many years ago and hated it. I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised. It’s still a difficult, frustrating play that is hard to decipher. It’s depressing (particularly the 2nd act), but it was a very good experience, due to the excellent acting, and the emphasis on humor. I think when I saw it originally, the humor wasn’t emphasized, but in this production, the humor made it bearable. I can’t imagine four better actors in those roles. It gave us a lot to think about. Also, seeing it as an older person gave me a new perspective.

    Reply
  6. Barry Mastellone

    May 13, 2009

    Thank you, first, for mounting this production and, then, for the opportunity to comment. I read the play in the days before going to see it. I found that reading helped me get a general idea of what I was to see, but the live performance far outshown anything that was on the page: the timing, the quick exchanges, the words brought to life by these actors. I was glad that no one actor “stole the show” so to speak. The themes were many and varied and I enjoyed discussing the different aspects of the play with others. I thought the set was intriguing as well. Bravo.

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  7. Marie Taylor

    May 13, 2009

    The acting was brilliant – I’m not sure that I would have enjoyed this play with other actors. All four were fabulous and deftly combined the humor with pathos. We took friends, who generally only like musicals, and were a bit apprehensive. Although they said they didn’t like it they continued talking about it for days! I think Becket would be pleased.

    Reply
  8. Len Axinn

    May 24, 2009

    How many people go through life focused on getting through the next hour, day, week or year? Of course there are many who must focus on survival and don’t have the luxury of being entertained or diverted by the Pozzo’s and Lucky’s who pass through their lives. But can’t we all benefit from taking time to smell the roses (or the shoes), observe those around us, and add dimensions to our lives. If the only purpose beyond getting through to tomorrow is to wait for someone who will magically transform our lives, we are likely to be sentenced to lives of struggle and boredom.

    Reply
  9. Joan Parmet

    June 13, 2009

    We loved this show and it certainly gave us material to think about. The dialogue was superb and the actors were nothing short of brilliant. They were a pleasure to watch. However, please try not to have social functions in the downstairs of the theater as the music was blaring through some of the show. When one is trying to concentrate on dialogue and there is thumping music below, it can be somewhat disconcerting.

    Reply
  10. B.Forlenza

    June 19, 2009

    Have enjoyed Nathan Lane and followed his career since I first saw him in “Guys and Dolls” on Broadway many years ago. Loved him in The Odd Couple and November, but have to admit that although his acting was spot on and his delivery flawless the play eluded me. I probably should have done some research beforehand as to the content. Now a day later I have read an outline of the play and although I understand the premise I still am not thrilled. Again, I loved Nathan Lane and John Goodman and their acting was top notch, but the play was not for me. I realize that is contradictory and I also realize after reading the other reviews that I am in the vast minority……..

    Reply
  11. blando

    June 22, 2009

    Have been looking forward with anticipation all season for “Godot,” especially when we heard who was in the cast: Of course, we have seen Lane and Irwin in other shows (“The Producers,” “The Guys”) and in their Roundabout expeditions — and John Glover, too, at Roundabout. But, on an even more personal note, I’ve wanted to see “Godot” again because of my Army experiences. Stationed in Orleans in the late 1950s, my buddies and I discovered the cast recording of “Godot” at, of all places, the USO Club. When things got hectic or depressing, we wound find sanctuary at the USO, put the record in the turntable and our minds would ease, and things would seem normal enough to continue doing our jobs. It was more effective than beers at the EM Club certainly. We played the record often enough to memorize most, if not all, of the dialogue. And who wasn’t a fan of Bert Lahr, the cowardly lion? Even a southern farm boy in our group knew of him. I have seen half-a-dozen versions of the play in the subsequent 50 years, including Alvin Epstein’s at Yale Rep. But this staging really has me excited, and from what I have heard and read about Lane-Irwin-Glover-Goodman, I have every reason to believe I will not be disappointed. While I hate to wish my life away, I can’t wait for Sarturday.

    Reply
  12. David Weiss

    July 1, 2009

    We saw Godot on 21 June and it remains in my mind as perhaps the best show I have seen in 15 years. We had seen Godot many years ago and I was puzzled by it. Not this time. A variety of messages came through clearly. (Maybe aging helps to understand it.) The clearest message can be phrased as “What are we all doing here?” We go through our daily lives as do Gogo and Didi waiting for something significant. Habit informs us. Poor us. Then one day someone else intrudes on us. Yes, someONE else. Pozzo and Lucky are one. Pozzo is will and Lucky is action or capability. Without the will there is no action, but the will is not always rational. Sometimes it operates blindly. We can see it in others. There are many subtexts here that are masterfully brought out in this version.

    The acting is beyond brilliant. The timing between Irwin (my favorite clown of all time) and Lane is extraordinary. The subtleties of their body languages say as much as their spoken words. Goodman more than takes command, as the will should, but is not overpowering. How does Glover do what he does? Was he an Olympic athlete? What timing! What physicality. I never expect to see the like of this ensemble again (and I’m not all that old). As you can see, I was impressed. This one show was worth at least this whole season at Roundabout.

    Reply
  13. Judd Maltin

    April 13, 2010

    I have seen over a dozen productions of Waiting for Godot, in venues from High School gymnasiums to London. It is the most profoundly influential pieces of literature and theater in my life.

    None of those performances were as stirring, joyous, horrifying, and elevating as your performance. Didi’s monologue at the end had me crying for it’s beauty. Thank you.

    It has motivated me to become a member of the Roundabout. I look forward to The Glass Menagerie.

    Reply


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