BWW REVIEW: THERE'S HOPE AND FUTILITY IN 'WAITING FOR GODOT'
Written by Samuel Beckett; directed by Judy Hegarty Lovett; set and costume design, Ferdia Murphy; lighting design, Sinead Mckenna; stage manager, Diarmuid Quigle; fight consultant, Donal O'Farrell; hair and makeup consultant, ValSherlock
Cast in Order of Appearance:
Vladimir, Conor Lovett; Estragon, Gary Lydon; Lucky, Tadhg Murphy; Pozzo, Gavan O'Herlihy; Boy, Connor Thomas Upton
Performances and Tickets:
Now through November 10, ArtsEmerson, Paramount Center Mainstage, 559 Washington Street, Boston, Mass.; tickets $25-$89 available by calling the Box Office at 617-824-8400 or online at www.artsemerson.org.
The wonderful trick of the Gare St Lazare Players of Ireland's mesmerizing production of Samuel Beckett's classic WAITING FOR GODOT (at ArtsEmerson in Boston through this weekend only) is that it inspires hope even as it suggests life is hopeless. With a canny Irish wit that finds the fun in the futility, this production seems to be saying with a subtle wink, "Hey, if you think it's absurd to wait forever for deliverance from someone who'll probably never show up anyway, then don't do it. Go out and find your own meaning in life!"
Of course, Vladimir (Conor Lovett) and Estragon (Gary Lydon) are having none of this implied advice. Self-determination simply isn't in their DNA, so when they are told each night by a young boy (Connor Thomas Upton) that tomorrow will be the day that Godot finally comes to meet them, they wait - and wait, and wait, and wait, and wait - for days, weeks, or maybe even years.
Seeming to believe they have no other option, Didi and Gogo (as they affectionately call one another) live each day as they have the previous one - trying to pass the time to fend off despair. Didi sometimes sings and dances while Gogo snoozes or talks about food. Gogo checks for pebbles in his boots while Didi philosophizes about damnation and redemption. Occasionally the two entertain the thought of abandoning their vigil and moving on, but Didi always convinces Gogo otherwise. What if they miss Godot? What will he do? More importantly, what will they do?
Almost miraculously, the likeable Lovett and Lydon deliver fully formed characters reminiscent of comedians Laurel and Hardy - but in reverse. In a twist that sees the slim Lovett wielding the power while the heavy-set Lydon is less assured, they win our sympathy even as they create their own purgatory. Despite misplaced hopes and fears that doom them to a perpetual limbo, they manage to find triumph in the tedium. While their Didi and Gogo could never be considered heroes, somehow their unassuming endurance makes them feel that way.
Also highly entertaining are Gavan O'Herlihy as the abusive landowner Pozzo and the slave who is literally tied to him, Lucky (Tadhg Murphy). Stopping for a couple of impromptu visits with Didi and Gogo on their way to and from the market, this strange and symbiotic coupling physically manifests the emotional co-dependency that lashes Didi and Gogo together. The tall and burly O'Herlihy blusters and bullies but then whimpers at the slightest inconvenience. Murphy is subservience personified as he buckles under every command, but when he is made to dance or put his "thinking cap" on he becomes a whirling dervish of pent up excess.
Director Judy Hegarty Lovett has practically music directed and choreographed her cast to get them to deliver performances of impeccable cadence and movement. She's also directed the play with a combination of knowing wit and delicate optimism that make the tragedy of Didi and Gogo's fruitless waiting all the more devastating.
It's too bad that this Dublin-born WAITING FOR GODOT is in Boston for such a short stay. Perhaps the Gare St Lazare Players will return in the future for a more extended run. If not, folks may just have to shuttle off to NYC to catch the Broadway production with Sirs Ian McKellan and Patrick Stewart. That run ends March 2. So don't wait too long.
PHOTOS BY ROS KAVANAGH: Gary Lydon as Estragon (Gogo) and Conor Lovett as Vladimir (Didi); Gary Lydon and Conor Lovett; Gary Lydon, Conor Lovett, Tadhg Murphy as Lucky and Gavan O'Herlihy as Pozzo