Emergent Arts presents an accomplished "Waiting for Godot"
Memo to Vladimir (Larry Rusinsky) and Estragon (Steve Elliott), the two tramps in Samuel Beckett’s “Waiting for Godot,” now being staged by Emergent Arts: I hate to be the one to tell you, but Godot’s just not that into you.
Why else would this ambiguous character leave you waiting, day in and day out, in a barren landscape, in an existential holding pattern, and send a boy messenger (Graeme Taylor) just to string you along? You’re desperate, bored, and lonely, and everyone knows it - including Pozzo (Tom Underwood) and his ironically-named, harnessed slave Lucky (Peter Knox), who regularly cross your path.
Like an old married couple, you spend each day snapping at each other; making up; playing games; philosophizing; speculating; and looking for distractions. Because despite the old adage “life is short,” life presents you -Â presents most of us - with the mixed blessing of many, many days to fill while facing down and contemplating the certainty of death.
Yes, summer is officially over, folks.
Not that Beckett’s two and a half hour absurdist masterpiece is all bleak - on the contrary, Didi and Gogo are modeled on the vaudevillian comedy teams of the early 20th century, so they often engage in physical humor and rapid-fire banter. Even so, Beckett’s humor is primarily a means to explore life’s toughest, most serious questions.
For this reason and more, “Godot” is a highly ambitious undertaking for an amateur theater group, and Emergent Arts generally does itself proud. Rusinsky and Elliott handle their dialogue, and its myriad shifts in tempo and tone, pretty well under the guidance of director Tim Henning. The two actors particularly hit their stride in the second act on opening night, appearing to grow more relaxed and have more fun with the material as the show progressed.
In some productions, Vladimir is the clear-cut leader of the two, while Estragon is more dim-witted; this production, however, presents them as near-equals. And while this somewhat undercuts the warped mirror image that is Pozzo and Lucky, the effect is hardly deleterious to the whole.
And Underwood and Knox, as the show’s secondary duo, perform their roles with sensitivity and physical skill, with Knox delivering a show-stopping version of Lucky's "think" speech.
Mark Savickas’ set - a blue fabric backdrop, a small, constructed tree, and a rock - seemed deliberately, self-consciously artificial, even though a subtle, spare realism may have served the show more effectively; and a strange moment had Vladimir remarking on the leaves that grew on the tree overnight, though it was just as bare as it was in the first act.
Still, this is a solid amateur production of a rarely-performed classic. And since we all eventually have to confront the tricky issues it raises, we might as well do so while occasionally laughing.