Chicago Theatre Review
Court Theatre’s “Godot” a Masterful Execution of a Dated Bore
Waiting for Godot – Court Theatre
“Waiting For Godot” by Samuel Beckett is one of those plays that lives and breaths on its reputation, one of those indelible works of drama that we seem to learn of while still in the womb.
Such recognition, though, hardly guarantees a quality work of art, and while viewing Court Theatre’s production of Beckett’s play, I was struck by two things: one, that Court’s exemplary track record on directing, acting, and production has yet to waver; and two, that rarely have such vast talents been in the service of such a thoroughly overrated, thoroughly dated work.
The set-up for “Godot” is part of its fame/infamy: Estrogen and Vladimir, two elderly wanderers in an indistinct landscape, wait for two days near a countryside tree for the mysterious Godot, a character who is supposed to meet them at that very spot. Across those two days (and two and a half agonizingly lethargic hours), the two longtime friends banter and joke in a clownish manner; are joined temporarily by an even more clownish wanderer in the guise of a circus ringleader (and with a slave in tow, to boot); and they wait, and wait, and wait, before finally, the play mercifully ends.
Like every other work of Beckett’s that I’ve had the displeasure of sitting through, “Godot” is a work of painful antiquity, a piece of modernism writing that has retained little of the originality and spark that propelled it such distances in the mid-20th century. Sure, a play where nothing ostensibly happens must have seemed revolutionary at the time – just like a play with characters sitting around in garbage cans must have been so hip at one point – but like most of Andy Warhol’s paintings, the moment that play is divorced from the haze of notoriety, all we’re left with a shockingly vague, boring play that features none of the humanity, empathy, and focus of a more modern and, yes, conventional piece of theater; for instance, there’s more warmth and humor and beauty in the 80 minutes of Red Orchid’s “Accidentally Like a Martyr” than there is in 150 minutes of the self-important, bloated, intellectually masturbatory “Godot.” Often times, the emperor truly has no clothes, and judging by the myriad reactions of those around me, I was hardly the only audience member to react in this fashion.
So why do I still offer a “Somewhat Recommended” rating to a playwright and play that I so obviously despise? Simply, I can’t bring myself to completely disregard a production with such obvious skill behind it. From “Raisin in the Sun,” to “Seven Guitars,” to “Tamer of Horses,” Director Ron OJ Parson continues to prove himself one of Chicago’s leading theatrical visionaries, and the sets (by Courtney O’Neill) and lighting (by Lee Keenan) that he oversees produce some of the more astounding images that I’ve seen on a stage; that, and the performances that Parson produces from Alfred H. Wilson and Allen Gilmore (who was phenomenal in “Seven Guitars” – which was also a perfect example of a superior play to “Godot”) are models in precise, comedic acting.
So it all can’t help but create sorrow in the viewer that such obvious talent is put forth in service of such an arrogant, maddening work of drama; in his grave, Beckett is still laughing at us for taking him so seriously.
Reviewed by Peter Thomas Ricci
Presented Jan. 15 – Feb. 15 at Court Theatre, 5535 S Ellis Ave, Chicago, IL 60637
Tickets are available by calling 773-753-4472 or by visiting www.courttheatre.org.
Additional information about this and other spectacular area productions is available at the one, the only, the indefatigable www.theatreinchicago.com.