Companies bend 'Godot' into unique shapes

Estragon (Nathan Keepers) and Vladimir (Jim Lichtscheidl) in Waiting for Godot.
Estragon (Nathan Keepers) and Vladimir (Jim Lichtscheidl) in Waiting for Godot.
Photo by Michal Daniel
You'll have to wait (ho ho) until next week's paper to read my full review of the Jungle's Waiting for Godot (in a nutshell: go see it), but seeing the show triggered some additional thoughts.

Among many other things, Samuel Beckett's play is incredibly malleable, as actors and directors can bend and twist it into interesting shapes. Not much is indicated in the script: five characters, a road, and a tree. You can pour of a lot of different thoughts into the emptiness, taking what the show is about into fresh directions.

Director Bain Boehlke and the company truly have made the Jungle's production about waiting -- the waiting that occupies so much of our time in life -- and how we fill that time. At the center is a rock-solid friendship that keeps the two main characters, Estragon and Vladimir, going during the long days (years even), passing time with distractions, thoughts, and ritual banter.

I was reminded of this when I went back to check over the review I wrote the last time the show was presented in the Twin Cities -- last summer, with Theatre Pro Rata's production at the old Hollywood Theatre in northeast Minneapolis. 

In that production, the accent was more on the underlying tedium and despair of the situation of our main characters. From its conception, there was a definite "after the fall" sort of vibe -- that the world had passed on, leaving these players behind to present their ritual, day after day, without end. The tedium and discomfort were accented by the location itself. The Hollywood hasn't been used as a movie theater for decades and is in poor repair. This includes no air conditioning, which made watching the show nearly unbearable in the hot summer of 2011.

The idea of a world that has passed on is certainly a rich one. It can be found throughout genres and media, especially in the later part of the 20th century, where everything from pre-millennial angst to post-modern detachment often gave off an beyond-the-end-times vibe. (That lives on today: check out the fiction of Paolo Bacigalupi or Will McIntosh's Soft Apocalypse for examples.)

Both journeys into the text are certainly worthy and I think my younger self, full of impatience and a desire for things to just get going, would have sided with Theatre Pro Rata's take. Now, I think I'm far more comfortable in the Jungle's Waiting for Godot. This isn't about lives that are wasted. We all spend so much time in a holding pattern, whether waiting in line at the bank, or if a relationship is going to deepen or end, or if things are going to change in the world. 

"Nothing to do" isn't about a lack of activity; it's almost a resignation to the fact that the world will go on, turning and turning, day after day, with or without our input. We can fight, or endure, or given in, but Waiting for Godot shows it is always easier with a friend at your side.


Waiting for Godot
The Jungle Theater
2951 Lyndale Ave., Minneapolis
Through September 30
For information, call 612.822.7063 or visit online
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Jungle Theater

2951 Lyndale Ave. S.
Minneapolis, MN 55408


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