Classic Theater Co. takes on a 20th Century Classic
by Marc Sommers
Normally seen around town in the summer months with their touring Shakespeare productions, the Hudson Shakespeare Company returns to Hackensack this April tackling a more up to date classic – “Waiting for Godot” by Samuel Beckett. Running from April 1-17 (Fridays and Saturdays 8pm and Sundays at 3PM) at the Hackensack Cultural Arts Center at 39 Broadway, the company presents one of the first shows about nothing...and everything.
Decades before Jerry Seinfeld made a career out of nothing in particular, Samuel Beckett, an Irish playwright who found a home for his writings in Paris, wrote this seminal show of fast comic banter, sit-com like situations, far fetched characters, sentimental longing and deep spiritual thought. The play became one of the staple shows of a counter culture movement in American and European theater known as “Theater of the Absurd”. Rebelling against long established conventions such as long winded characters and 4 hour plays, Beckett and other Aburdist playwrights created settings that made no sense, characters that lampooned popular figures and customs and generally creating plots or any plot that thoroughly irritated the established theater. All to the delight of the young beatnicks and bohemians that actually got the joke that was being told on stage.
“Waiting for Godot” (Pronounced GOD-O) tells the story of two tramps, the motor mouthed philosopher Vladimir (Tony Scheinman) and his stinky footed poet friend Estragon (Charles J. Roby). Set loosely somewhere in the French countryside or perhaps not, the hapless pair have been together for a VERY long time and speak about boots, garlic, their sleeping habits, hanging oneself and the odd spiritual matter all to pass the time of their vagabond life. With the finesse of a long-married, bickering old couple, the two friends reveal insights into everyday experience and the larger human condition through conversation about mundane activities. The only thing that lifts these two lost souls out of their repetitive lives is waiting for the God-like, Mr. Godot to arrive.
The pair’s waiting is interrupted by the loud and supposedly rich Pozzo (Jonathan Levy) and his robot like and silent servant Lucky (Mary Jo Verruto). Claiming that the two tramps are on his land, Pozzo takes command of the scene with the passion of king holding court in an insane asylum. The tramps slowly warm up to their new psychotic friend, who engages in his own musings of about life as an old man traipsing about the country with his trusty old servant. Not to be out done, the always silent Lucky even has his chance to put on his thinking cap and let his thoughts be known in one of the most hilarious and wacky moments from the play. Capping off the banter of the four stooges is the appearance of Godot’s enigmatic servant boy (Kathy Aiellos), who simply states that Mr. Godot will come soon.
From the simple premise of mining comic and dramatic gold from ordinary situations with down on their luck people, Beckett set a new standard for theater that has influenced countless writers of the stage, TV and cinema. Leading a movement that turned stuffy convention on its ear, “Waiting for Godot” unshackled writers and helped them move in new creative directions. Though thoroughly entrenched in the counter culture of his day, Beckett also paid homage to past characters and theatrical styles that were already fading away when he wrote ‘Godot’ in 1953. The characters of Vladimir and Lucky are both tips of the Bowler hat to and parodies of Laurel and Hardy and silent film stars Buster Keaton and Charlie Chaplin. Both the characters of Pozzo and Lucky are stock characters from the age of Vaudeville. With one foot in his radical days and another paying tribute to those greats that came before him, Beckett crafts a show that funny, poignant, irritating, weird and thoroughly enjoyable.
The show is sponsored by the Hackensack Recreation and Culture Department, please call 201 646-8042 for ticket reservation. Tickets are $12 for adults/$10 Senior and Students. For more information on the Hudson Shakespeare Company and their upcoming summer calendar, please visit their site at www.hudsonshakespeare.org