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Review Roundup: WAITING FOR GODOT Opens Off-Broadway at Theatre For a New Audience

The production stars Michael Shannon, Paul Sparks and more.

By: Nov. 15, 2023
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The second production in TFANA’s 2023-24 season is Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot, staged by Arin Arbus and featuring Michael Shannon (TFANA’s Denis Johnson’s Des Moines and Ionesco’s The Killer) as Estragon; Paul Sparks (The Killer) as Vladimir; Jeffrey Biehl as Lucky; and Ajay Naidu as Pozzo. Ms. Arbus, who has staged Shakespeare, Wilder, Ibsen and Strindberg, and Denis Johnson with TFANA, stages Beckett for the first time.

Read the reviews here!

Review Roundup: WAITING FOR GODOT Opens Off-Broadway at Theatre For a New Audience  Image Laura Collins-Hughes, The New York Times: I have no idea whether I caught the show on an off night, or if after merely a week of previews the production was still somewhat underbaked. But the inertness of Act I gave way to a high-energy Act II — rather denting the idea that one day in the nearly featureless void of Didi and Gogo’s existence is practically indistinguishable from another, but thank goodness anyway.

Review Roundup: WAITING FOR GODOT Opens Off-Broadway at Theatre For a New Audience  Image Sara Holdren, Vulture: With film and TV regulars Michael Shannon and Paul Sparks donning the dirty bowlers and too-tight boots this time — as Estragon and Vladimir, respectively — Arin Arbus’s Waiting for Godot feels vigorous and down-to-earth. It leaps right over hurdle No. 1 (the night I saw it, it kept several little kids in the audience giggling regularly — a pretty marvelous sound to hear while watching Beckett). If it doesn’t always clear hurdle No. 2, well, that one’s very high. And perhaps, in this particular moment, we walk down the street with enough clear and present dread weighing down our pockets.

Review Roundup: WAITING FOR GODOT Opens Off-Broadway at Theatre For a New Audience  Image Tim Teeman, The Daily Beast: Even as they finally resolve to “go,” in this Godot—as in every Godot—Shannon and Sparks remain stuck in the perennial purgatory that follows the utterance of that final line. However, this production comes with the cushion of comforting companionship its two lead actors skillfully conjure and convey. It’s a rare production that you want to carry on waiting for Godot with Didi and Gogo, but this is one.

Review Roundup: WAITING FOR GODOT Opens Off-Broadway at Theatre For a New Audience  Image Max McGuinness, Financial Times: Please use the sharing tools found via the share button at the top or side of articles. Copying articles to share with others is a breach of FT.com T&Cs and Copyright Policy. Email licensing@ft.com to buy additional rights. Subscribers may share up to 10 or 20 articles per month using the gift article service. More information can be found at https://www.ft.com/tour. https://www.ft.com/content/4c99b702-8468-4f4f-97ff-9dc0311aa726 These weaknesses mean that Arbus’s staging struggles to come together for much of act one. The cast then strike up a more coherent rhythm after the interval, grounded in a lively, physical style of performance that makes nimble use of Riccardo Hernández’s capacious design. Despite an ever-present limp, Shannon now barnstorms around the theatre, creating a pleasing manifestation of the tramps’ circuitous arguments. And the four men’s existential exhaustion is neatly summed up when they all collapse in a heap in the middle of the road.

Review Roundup: WAITING FOR GODOT Opens Off-Broadway at Theatre For a New Audience  Image David Cote, Observer: Shamblin’ Shannon and Blazing Sparks: the powerhouse duo we’ve waited decades to see sharing the spotlight as Beckett’s tramps, threadbare in trousers and spirit. In what might be a post-apocalyptic neverwhere, they dawdle and quarrel and peevishly await one Godot (O’God?), who will never arrive. Estragon wrestles with his painful boot, trying to free it from his smelly foot; Vladimir periodically races offstage to urinate (bad kidneys). Sound designer Palmer Hefferan creates thin piddling in a shallow metal receptacle. I saw a hubcap, since director Arin Arbus and scenic designer Riccardo Hernández translate the “country road” stage direction into a U.S. highway; the two men stalk up and down asphalt and across yellow median stripes looking for all the world like Depression-era hobos who lost their bindles at dice.

Review Roundup: WAITING FOR GODOT Opens Off-Broadway at Theatre For a New Audience  Image Frank Scheck, New York Stage Review: Director Arin Arbus has staged a relatively faithful and straightforward rendition, which is probably for the best since the playwright’s estate tends to take a dim view of any radical reinterpretations. A bare stage with the familiar leafless tree provides the setting, although it here takes the form of a long catwalk-like strip made to look like a desolate highway, with a painted line down the center. As we enter the theater, Shannon’s Estragon sits onstage, doing, what else, waiting. Except in this case for the show to begin.

Review Roundup: WAITING FOR GODOT Opens Off-Broadway at Theatre For a New Audience  Image David Finkle, New York Stage Review: Arbus may not be the first to be this true to Beckett, but of the many stage revivals I’ve attended — not to mention the 60-performance initial 1956 New York City production starring Bert Lahr and E. G. Marshall — I’ve never seen one so scrupulously realized. And please note that I’ve spent so much time going on about this one aspect of Arbus’ treatment because it’s immediately representative of her entire supervision of Beckett’s comedy and accompanying tragedy — or is Waiting for Godot a genuine tragedy?

Review Roundup: WAITING FOR GODOT Opens Off-Broadway at Theatre For a New Audience  Image Jonathan Mandell, New York Theater: So blame it on my conditioning, but these latest Didi and Gogo did not rivet my attention until some of those slapstick routines kicked in, mostly in Act II, most memorably when they juggle three hats on their two heads, and when four of the characters all collapse on one another.


Average Rating: 68.8%


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