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.
2008-2009 Season, Waiting for Godot