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Review: WAITING FOR GODOT at The Colonial Theatre

Westerly park provides ideal venue for a compelling production of the Beckett classic.

By: Aug. 11, 2022
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Review: WAITING FOR GODOT at The Colonial Theatre  ImageOver its 70-year history, Beckett's Waiting for Godot has been staged in many venues, but Colonial Theatre's current production offers a most congenial outdoor setting in Westerly's Wilcox Park. Combine that with stellar performances all around and deft, assured directorial choices, and you have a compelling evening worthy of the material.

The Colonial has been performing Shakespeare during the summer in Wilcox for nearly three decades, and their decision this year to take on the challenge of Godot has paid off handsomely. It is perhaps counterintuitive, but there may be no better setting for this story of humanity set amidst the chaotic immensity of the universe than a tiny splotch of painted rocks and a stylized tree plunked in the center of a darkening, cricket-filled park evening.

You may be familiar with the plot of this tragicomic, absurdist work: two bowler-hatted, down-on-their-luck figures wait by a tree for the promised appearance of a Mr. Godot (pronounced correctly here as GAH-doh, rather than the Americanized "goDOH"). They are visited by a self-important traveler and his beleaguered attendant, and receive news from a small boy. Mostly, they talk. As a critic once snarkily noted, "Nothing happens, twice."

But denying the expectation for something to "happen" is precisely the point, and director Marion Markham fully explores every nuanced turn of the text, allowing moments to breathe without feeling the need to countersink comedic beats or to descend into pathos in dramatic passages. It is a production deeply aware of time, and of the importance of taking time.

The two leads are absolutely brilliant. Jered McLenigan's Estragon is by turns wistful, resigned, and stoic. McLenigan's purposeful, restrained movement and delivery are a perfect anchor and foil to Dan Morrison's expressive, animated Vladimir. Morrison illuminates the character with facial expression and gesture that is finely calibrated. These are outstanding performances by actors who fully get the text and show us the deep reality behind Beckett's spare descriptions.

Peter Tedeschi is a delight as the buffonish Pozzo. Tedeschi nails the features and foibles of an insistent narcissistic personality (and ably breaks down in its moments of weakness.) As his attendant, Lucky, Brian Linden meets the challenge of a role heavily dependent on speechless business, which he executes with crisp precision (movement designer Lorenzo Pisoni undoubtedly deserves some credit). Lucky's word-salad monologue--always a highly anticipated moment--is a brilliant tour-de-force, and earned applause the night this reviewer saw the show.

Zach Roth as the Boy is appropriately befuddled and fearful in his interactions with Vladimir and Estragon. Excellent work from this 7th grader.

Markham's direction makes full use of John Tedeschi's spare, unassuming setting, moving the action between rock and tree and exploring the downstage area and even the grassy space beyond. This works exceedingly well with Jackie Cabrero's lighting design, which makes up for the lack of overhead bars with two side scaffolds and footlights, all used to great effect.

The costumes, by Jaysen Engel, match the characters perfectly, with Vladimir and Estragon appropriately worn and patched. Hailey O'Leary's sound design--never a sure thing for an outdoor stage--is absolutely crisp and clean. And listen for the tone that sneaks in with the birds. Clever touch.

The Colonial has mounted a powerful production of a deceptively simple text, with smart choices and excellent acting. If you are a fan or student of Beckett's plays, you will find that this production explores the text in interesting ways; newcomers to Godot will find this a most pleasant entrée into the work.

There are only three performances remaining, so waste no time heading to Westerly for a thought-provoking, darkly comic evening in the park. Highly recommended.

Waiting for Godot, directed by Marion Markham. Colonial Theatre in Wilcox Park, August 11-13 7:30 pm; closing night celebration: August 13 10:30 pm (separate paid ticket required); rain makeup date: August 14 7:30 pm. Tickets: Free, registration requested or for more info: (401) 596-7909.

Closest parking to the entrance is at Grove and Wilcox. Accessibility note: graded incline down to field; some travel on grass required.

Photo credit: Gary Hall


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