Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot with Ian McKellan (Estragon) and Patrick Stewart (Vladimir) at the Cort Theater in New York was absolutely beautifully performed, staged, and directed. Lucky, Billy Crudup, Pozzo performed by Shuler Hensley and boy, performed by Colin Crutchley, rounded up the cast. The play has various interpretations, from Christian to Freudian, among many others. This performance provoked thoughts, laughter, and various discussions among the audience.
Patrick Stewart states in an interview in Playbill.com that the audience should forsake the search for a deeper meaning and instead simply enjoy the absurdity and comedy of the play, enjoying it as you would enjoy a Monty Python sketch. But the absurdity, though funny, provokes questions, absurd questions.
Is waiting for Godot an absurd act? Absurd it is, two elderly vagrants await the arrival of a man who promises his arrival, via a child goat herder, tomorrow. But tomorrow arrives, they struggle to remember what happened yesterday, if indeed it was yesterday.
A rich man arrives, abuses his poor servant fool, who thinks and suffers harshly for it. The fool’s soliloquy, though seemingly absurd, makes more sense than all other discourse. The night arrives, the vagrants depart, and return to face a new day, assured by the child goat herder that Godot will arrive tomorrow. Hanging themselves on the skeletal tree seems better than facing another tomorrow in this barren place. And unless Godot shows up tomorrow, and if they can find rope, that is what they assure us they will do.
The play means something different to everyone. For me it is a metaphor for waiting for God, if he indeed exists, and thus waiting to die. How to fill the time between forceps and grave depends entirely on the individual. Do we experience true happiness by collecting “things,” mistreating others, fighting, helping, being opportunistic, or simply chatting to idle the hours away while we wait? Absurd things such as putting shoes on taking shoes off all take up a great deal of time and dialogue. The vagrants dare not speak to each other about their dreams, thought is frightening, and the concept of being left absolutely alone in this barren landscape is horrifying.
So we face another tomorrow, waiting for Godot, idling the hours away without thinking or dreaming.
The child goat herder assures the vagrants and us that Godot is a man with a white beard. That he does exist, is a good master, though he beats the boy’s brother, the shepherd. Godot will arrive tomorrow, Estragon and Vladimir should continue to wait here in this barren landscape for him.
We are left waiting, but with performances as lively, comedic, and honest as McKellan’s and Stewart’s, I am only too happy to wait for Godot with them.