Waiting For Godot @ Stella Adler Theatre

You can endlessly search for meaning in this play, much the same way that these two characters search for meaning in their lives, but the best you’ll do is to come up with your own interpretation of the actions (or inactions) of these two characters as they pertain to your own view on the meaning of life. Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot, at it’s simplest is an allegory. Godot, of course, refers to God (although that open to debate depending on your own interpretation) and the title is in reference to the eminent salvation that doesn’t seem to come. Everything else referenced is symbolic in nature, right down to the exact same stage directions at the end of both Acts.

Beckett’s absurdist look at the meaning of life borrows to some degree from Sartre – in particular his 1944 existentialist one-act No Exit in which hell is literally a series of rooms and passages with no exit. In Beckett’s play, there is no hell, per se, but the two main characters, Estragon (Alain Villeneuve) and Vladimir (Andy Wagner) return day after day to a country road next to a wilted tree in hopes that Godot will meet them to explain their insignificance. Each day, Godot sends a boy messenger to deliver the news that he won’t be coming that day, but that he “will come tomorrow. Without fail.” They’re doomed to relive that day over and over again, one frustrated by the fact that the other can’t remember the events of the previous day.

Timothy McNeil’s production at the Stella Adler Theatre definitely understands the complexities of the play and has cast two great actors to portray the vivacious and hopeful Vladimir and the run-down Estragon. The striking set by Villeneuve places this world in a desolate desert region – visually commenting on the desperation and hopelessness of the play. The costumes allude to the old world of vaudeville and Charles Pacello’s Pozzo plays his character for laughs in those broad vaudevillian strokes. His slave Lucky (Deshik Vansadia) is a perfect complement to his Pozzo, playing it to exaggerated physical comedy. Still, the production never fully comes together as a whole, instead providing some great individual performances. Wagner is great with his over-the-top gestures and musings. Villeneuve is subtle, reflective, honest. Pacello, however, takes his performance all over the place, sometimes playing to the audience for laughs, almost begging and pausing until he gets the required response. All this might have worked, had the director gone for a full-on circus extravaganza as a through-line, but alas, the concept is hard to pinpoint.

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