Spencer Korcz & Neil Brewer. Photo: Keyhole Theatre

Waiting for Godot

By Samuel Beckett 
Directed by Jason Jones

A review by Keith Waits

Entire contents are copyright © 2021, by Keith Waits. All rights reserved.

“Someone is doing Waiting for Godot? Man, will I be able to stay awake? Samuel Beckett makes my head hurt.”

These were some of the thoughts in my mind as I contemplated reviewing this production. I don’t take naturally to Beckett, and Godot can be lugubrious in the wrong hands. People forget it is a comedy.

Director Jason Jones and his cast did not forget, and this Godot brings plenty of slapstick, verbal dexterity, and solid comedic timing that makes this version of the existential, absurdist masterpiece more accessible than expected.

Scholars have pondered the meaning of the play for nearly 70 years, and the interpretations run the gamut from Christian allegory (of course) to Freudian (of course) and everything in between. The endless waiting of Vladimir (Neal Brewer) and Estragon (Spencer Korcz) in a barren landscape; the bombastic episode with Pozzo (Mike Price) and Lucky (Duncan Phillips), two individuals bound together by more than a rope; is vague enough to be many things. As an existential tract about the monotony of daily routine, it suggests the meaninglessness of existence. In the largest view, are the lives we lead merely a pointless routine of action and reaction? If Vladimir and Estragon are Everyman characters, then the specificity of Pozzo and Lucky’s interactions speaks to centuries of human cruelty and subjugation. How else should I see Pozzo except as a ringmaster of a sadistic carnival of brutal oppression (in the first act, anyway)? And what to make of Lucky’s explosion of verbosity? The dialogue there is filled with sound thinking but delivered so recklessly that it also seems like pretentious intellectualism. 

Neil Brewer makes Vladimir, who Estragon calls Didi, an earnest and straightforward questioner. The performance is a bit raw (how else would you play it?) and Brewer’s slender frame looks positively emaciated in the rags and duct-taped coat he is wearing. This actor has an affinity for desperate, searching intelligence and feels very at home here.

Spencer Korcs gives Estragon, who Vladimir calls Gogo, a more contrived, self-aware quality that emphasizes his comparative dim-wittedness. He and Brewer contrast nicely while also delineating the curious bond between the two men.

Pozzo steals the focus during his first scene, and Mike Price plays him like the little dictator he is, just mean enough but also ingratiating in his brash, commanding energy that reminds us such men are appealing.

Duncan Phillip’s Lucky is a sustained and precise physical performance, slow and halting in every painful movement until that explosion. 

Brooks Roseberry does a good job finding the balance of anxiousness and authority with his brief moments as a Boy who reports on Godot’s pending arrival.

There was no credit for the costumes, so we can imagine they were arrived at through collaboration between the director and the cast. They carry most of the weight in the design of the show, which calls for only one lone tree in its setting, which is here constructed from various man-made objects; a totem suitable for a junkyard and also full of clues about the play. A small element that may go unnoticed by some audience members is sections of the walls inscribed with hatch marks as one would find on the wall of a prison cell. The modern context is further reinforced by several piles of shipping boxes and packing materials.

In his program notes, director Jones ponders if Waiting for Godot is perhaps especially relevant in the time of a pandemic that seems as if it might never end. We have all been waiting: waiting for Amazon packages, waiting to go back to work, back to school, waiting for vaccines, and we are still waiting. But what comes next is fluid and uncertain and the inevitability of COVID variants may simply be forcing an adjustment in our routine, but it will always be routine all the same.

Waiting for Godot

September 16-18, September 22-24 @ 7:30 pm

Keyhole Theatre
TheatreWorks of Southern Indiana
203 E. Main Street
New Albany, In 47150

Keith Waits is a native of Louisville who works at Louisville Visual Art during the days, including being the host of LVA’s Artebella On The Radio on WXOX 97.1 FM / ARTxFM.com, but spends most of his evenings indulging his taste for theatre, music and visual arts. His work has appeared in LEO Weekly, Pure Uncut Candy, TheatreLouisville, and Louisville Mojo. He is now Managing Editor for Arts-Louisville.com.