by Adam Cohen
In a desolate land lies a stone, shaped by waiting for who knows how long to a stool. A sad dying tree with three branches undulates. And a dry tableau of firmament that matches the sky sets the stage for director Garry Hynes’ Ireland’s Druid Theater production of Samuel Beckett’s Waiting For Godot at Lincoln Center’s White Light Festival. The production excels at finding the humor in the mundane; it pierces with a gracious, poignant truth of friendship. Hynes mines the piece for its quiet moments and visceral existential angst and vaudeville farce. She firmly redefines our notion of tragic daily rituals while finding the necessary, vital humor.
Each day, Vladimir (Marty Rea) and Estragon (Aaron Monaghan) pace hungrily across the bleak landscape waiting at the stone and tree for their friend or savior Godot. They bring Music Hall lightness to the graceful movements and a comedic undertone to everyday things like removing stubborn shoes from swollen feet. They argue, debate, and weigh the value of memory, friendship, and life. Both are first-rate physical actors while also imbuing Vladimir and Estragon with unique personalities, quiet desperation and a palpably physical yearning for something more. There’s immense heart to this production.
Francis O’Connor is the set and costume designer and has done a stunning job with it all.Providing details that allow the actors comfort, flexibility and personality. Haynes’ production is beautifully illuminated by James F. Ingalls.
They stand in sharp contrast – Rea is all leg. Tall with deep pockets of food. Monaghan is squatter and hungrier. Together they have a ritualistic camaraderie, effortless grace and glee. One never questions their commitment to one another and their waiting.
Their day is interrupted by the brusque Pozzo (Rory Nolan) and his slave Lucky (Garrett Lombard) – the very embodiment of desperate exhaustion. Lucky has a rope around his neck and is always a moment away from a severe whipping. His entrance quickly becomes an exit, since the rope around his neck is so long that he’s offstage before Pozzo arrives onstage holding the other end. Lucky is laden with a bag, basket, and stool for his master. Lombard’s Lucky is perfectly subservient. His monologue is rendered as Gilbert & Sullivan verve. His master is precise. Nolan is by turns charming as the bully, brash and impressed with all that he commands while also desperate for company at his level.
Based in Galway, Druid is a company known for its bold interpretations and ambitious projects. They won four Tony Awards for the 1998 production of Martin McDonaugh’s “The Beauty Queen of Leenane.” Hynes direction is assured, filled with comedic grace and the brittle tension of daily grind. There’s no malice just faith to the possibility of strangers along the road and the promise of Godot.
Photos: Matthew Thompson
Tickets and more information at https://whitelightfestival.org
Thru November 13