|L-R: Dave Hanson and Chris Sullivan in WAITING FOR WAITING FOR GODOT|
Waiting for Waiting for Godot (WFWFGodot), now playing at the Kraine Theater on East Fourth Street in Lower Manhattan as part of FringeNYC 2013, is not only a terrific meta-reworking of the original Beckett classic but is also a delicious send-up of the entire Beckett canon. In this production, set in a dingy backstage dressing room rather than on a country road, Val (Dave Hanson) and Ester (Chris Sullivan), are understudies for the roles of the two hobos, Vladimir and Estragon, in Waiting for Godot, and are themselves awaiting the arrival, not of Godot but of their play’s Director, in the hopes that he will come to tell them that he intends to give them an opportunity to play their roles onstage.
In Beckett’s The Unnamable, the novel’s unidentified protagonist, after a long disjointed monologue, proclaims “…you must go on. I can’t go on. I’ll go on” – a sentiment at the core of Beckett’s work but one that is not very different from that hoary theatrical mantra: “The show must go on.” And, indeed, for the multi-talented Dave Hanson, who wrote WFWFGodot and who also plays the role of Val, the distinction between Beckett’s words and the theatrical mantra would appear to be a distinction without a difference: the play must go on and so must the two understudies, if not onstage, then at least with their own lives.
Val and Ester are consumed by the same absurdist existential questions that tormented Vladimir and Estragon and fare no better in their struggles than do their alter egos. In Waiting For Godot, it is an unnamed boy who arrives to tell the two hobos that Godot won’t be showing up that day after all; in WFWFGodot, it is Laura (Amy Weaver), the perky Assistant Stage Manager, who informs them that the Director they had been hoping to see won’t be making an appearance that day either. The consequences are the same: despair
But WFWFGodot is much more than just a retelling (or even a meta-retelling) of the Waitng for Godot story, simply set in a different venue with Ester’s vest substituting for Estragon’s boot: it is also a delightful parody of Beckett’s signature style. When Ester gives Val an acting lesson, emphasizing the “miserly” approach to acting wherein an actor does nothing but repeat another actor’s lines, the verbal repetitions and repetitions of repetitions constitute an hysterical send-up of Beckett, culminating in what I took to be a similar send-up of James Joyce as well.
Hanson plays the role of Val with comic genius and Sullivan turns in an equally impressive performance as Ester. In sum, this production is likely to go down as one of the very best of the FringeNYC 2013 and if the show’s not yet sold out and you can still manage to get tickets for one of the few remaining performances, I’d strongly urge you to do so.