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Review: WAITING FOR GODOT at Irish Classical Theatre


Review: WAITING FOR GODOT at Irish Classical Theatre
Vincent O'Neill and Brian Mysliwy

After a near two year absence, live audiences have returned to Irish Classical Theatre. And the production that inaugurated the company is back again, nestled into it's home stage, which may never have been dreamt of 30 years ago. Irishman Samuel Beckett's WAITING FOR GODOT is on the boards and audiences can once again ponder it's genius and complexity. Written in French in 1953 and later translated into English by Beckett himself, GODOT is undoubtedly one of his most produced and debated pieces.

Greater writers and scholars than I have attempted to analyze the meaning of Beckett's prized piece. So many of it's scenes are fascinating and intricate ponderances yet as a whole it often remains a head scratcher. Vladimir and Estragon are inexplicably yoked together, meeting daily at the same tree along a country road. They await the arrival of Mr Godot-- as for the reason, it is anyone's guess. Based squarely in the Theatre of the Absurd, these two disheveled old men reveal their co-dependence through random conversations regarding the meaning of life and whether they should even consider living one more day. Is hanging a good option? Is it best to separate, after some 50 years? What the nature of the relationship is is never fully explained.

Beckett is a master at creating intrigue regarding these two men. Both appear learned, yet their physical appearance and habits suggest otherwise. Covered in dirt, wearing tattered clothes, reeking of garlic, foul smelling feet, and festering wounds, one can only imagine the life they have led. The day to day repetitions and rituals imply how monotony creeps into everyone's existence, where sunrise will definitely be followed by sunset and the day of the week is immaterial in the greater scope of life. The ponder the smallest of life's concerns, albeit in a random fashion, often leading to no end.

Happily, ICTC has pulled out all the stops in it's stellar casting. Vincent O'Neill, who co-founded the company and starred in the it's very first production, simply IS Vladimir. Beleaguered by old age and urinary problems, Vladimir insists he and Estragon MUST continue to wait for the mysterious Godot. O'Neill embodies the role perfectly , with his thick Irish accent and long white hair topped by the classic bowler hat. He brings a sage wisdom that often makes sense out of the lunacy. He needs Estragon as much as Estragon needs him. The two rely on each other for everything, from bits of old vegetables for sustenance, to help getting their shoes on. O'Neill fully takes the reins, yet without the Estragon of Brian Mysliwy, each man would be wrecked.

Mr. Mysliwy turns in a brilliant performance as the other half of the wretched duo. His physical maladies never leave him, full of groans, limps and vocal blusters. He is captivating, but when the two men join forces, lightning strikes and they become the Laurel and Hardy of their time. They fashion games to pass the time, sing, do imitations and contemplate the crucifixion of Christ. When the briefly embrace, the years of their friendship are evident and it becomes hard to imagine one without the other.

Beckett adds a second pair of men, the elegant Pozzo and the idiot Lucky. These two men amble into the proceedings, with Lucky literally tied around the neck by a rope by Pozzo. Lucky is portrayed by Ben Michael Moran, who does a fine job with a difficult role. As if the name "Lucky" wasn't ironic enough, he is forced into servitude and remains mostly mute as his master refers to him as Pig. Todd Benzin is wonderful as Pozzo, a man who also can seem to do nothing alone, reliant on the "help" of Lucky. Mr. Moran gives a winning performance, and when he is called upon to "think" he leaves his mutism behind and goes into a mad rant of gibberish that begins calmly and climaxes in an uncomfortable bit of hysteria. No easy feat. Benzin is magnetic as the bossy, yet dependent master.

The second act begins just as the first, lending a Groundhog's Day eeriness to the lives of the two men. Vladimir and Estragon seems to be repeating the same actions again, but the barren tree now has sprouted leaves. Is this the same tree? Did yesterday really happen? Will Godot come today as foretold by the boy ( Jackson Snodgrass) at the end of the previous act?

Their world unravels as Pozzo and Lucky return, but they are changed. Pozzo is blind and Lucky is completely mute. They are wholly reliant on each other, and now are even more pathetic characters than Vladimir and Estragon. The world now seems so much different from the previous day in many ways. The commentary on the sameness of a daily existence, longing and waiting for something, and life's miseries and joys are all explored in this dark tragic comedy.

Director Josephine Hogan paces the evening at a good clip, never allowing the absurdity to overpower the nuances each of the fine actors bring to their roles. Deep bonds are palpable between the two pairs of men, all who are struggling with their inner quests for something, with their desires and needs for companionship, and a deeper meaning to their existence.

This fine production provides multiple opportunities to observe and ponder- something I believe Beckett himself would have hoped for his audiences.

WAITING FOR GODOT plays at Buffalo's Irish Classical Theatre through February 13, 2022. Contact for more information

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From This Author - Michael Rabice

Michael Rabice has over  40 years of experience attending plays, musicals and opera all over the world. He is a frequent performer in opera and has appeared with the Glimmerglass Opera, A... (read more about this author)

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