BWW Reviews: Two Understudies Wait to Perform Beckett's Famous Play in the Very Funny WAITING FOR WAITING FOR GODOT
"Nothing to be done," Estragon says to Vladimir, the first line of Waiting for Godot, Samuel Beckett's landmark play, first presented 60 years ago, and performed around the world ever since.
"Nothing to be done," Ester says to Val in Waiting for Waiting for Godot, a new play by stand-up comic and performer Dave Hanson at the New York International Fringe Festival about two understudies backstage at a production of Waiting For Godot who are waiting - waiting for the director, waiting to go on...the stage:
Ester: A light could fall. Someone could get sick...
Val: Or quit!
Ester: That would never happen.
Val: Don't say that! This is a very difficult show to do. No one even knows what it means.
Waiting for Waiting For Godot is less a spoof of Beckett's work than it is a knowing comic riff on the life of an actor. Its 80 minutes are full of inside jokes (though hardly obscure) about the theater - a running gag about Juilliard, allusions to actors' vanity and their superstitions and above all their insecurities. Beckett's metaphor about the anxieties of modern life becomes in Hanson's hands a representation of the anxieties of a career on stage.
About halfway through the play, Laura the stage manager enters:
"Acting isn't that hard," she says dismissively. "You wear a costume someone else made, you stand where someone else tells you to, and then you say lines someone else wrote. What's the big deal?"
Ester, outraged, demonstrates his prowess, by imitating a gorilla reciting lines from Marlon Brando movies.
The best thing about Waiting for Waiting for Godot is its title, and the clever concept behind it. It has little of the real resonance of Beckett's play, resembling more a series of brief Who's-On-First Abbott and Costello routines, some of which could be cut without much loss. But a few are very funny. And, unlike the play it mimics, Waiting for Waiting for Godot ends with something of a resolution.
The three performers make it all more entertaining than it probably deserves to be, in part because of their mastery of physical comedy. Hanson himself plays Val. Amy Weaver is the straight-faced Laura. Chris Sullivan, who portrayed the Duke in Nice Work If You Can Get It and Amos Hart in Chicago on Broadway, plays Ester as a hilariously overbearing, anxious and delusional ham; the ghost of Zero Mostel would surely approve. Ester's dream is Broadway - and afterwards, films: "Serious roles. Something sexy and cool....charming but dangerous. Really make people think, you know, about Africa....Or wherever."
Waiting for Waiting for Godot might not make people think much, but it will make them laugh.
Waiting for Waiting for Godot is playing at Kraine's Theater, as part of the Fringe Festival, through Sunday, August 25.
Photos by Jill Steinberg