Nothing To Be Done But Something To Behold.
BROADWAY MAGAZINE REVIEW: Samuel Beckett’s tersely beautiful tragicomedy poem of a play is getting a brilliant revival on Broadway under the guidance of Anthony Page. Beckett’s brusque burlesquing tramps are played by Nathan Lane and Bill Irwin, the tramps are tasked with waiting for a character named Godot who may or may not show up (do we need a spoiler alert on this one?). One of the successes of this production is that though the audience may know the characters’ fate, the characters themselves genuinely do not. These tramps truly hope and despair. The play is allowed to resonate clearly. This is true in part because Page tamps the temptation to tart up the show with comedy and let the clowning lions of Irwin and Lane roar with silly routines. Thankfully, they don’t. Lane in particular is grounded in the specifics of the play and his character; it is an honest and raw performance. Bill Irwin fares less well, insisting on a vocal delivery that is consciously not naturalistic and becomes annoyingly intrusive at times. His deservedly famous clowning skills and physical vocabulary sometimes cloud his credibility as the character.
While this production is amusing, it achieves it’s laughs on Beckett’s barren turf and the pacing never allows the comic momentum to overwhelm the play. There is an exceptional trust of the playwright in this production, and the fidelity makes for the most rewarding experience on Broadway. As the audience, we experience the multiple meanings of the play, while always remaining emotionally attached to the stage reality of all the characters. Particular praise to John Goodman for his Pozzo, and John Glover, who takes a famously challenging monologue and imbues it with sense and meaning. Glover’s performance is a microcosm of what makes this production work so well, there is a concerted effort to mine the reality of the play for specificity based on the characters…there is no strain to make the play feel significant.
Driven by the realities of the play, the production is comfortable in being uncomfortable and embraces silence when a less confident production might feel desperate to manufacture a laugh. With it’s touching final moment, Beckett communicates something wonderful and sad. In this production, the layered meaning of that moment is experienced by the audience because it is true to the characters on the stage. Beckett’s vision may be bleak, but in this production the darkness is well worth seeing.