Review: ‘Waiting for Godot’ in the Bleakest Zoom Room Ever

That problem encourages a certain degree of overacting, especially from Hawke, as if he were trying to make himself visible from a distan...


That problem encourages a certain degree of overacting, especially from Hawke, as if he were trying to make himself visible from a distance. (He has lovely moments, though.) Trotter, who under the name Black Thought was a co-founder of the hip-hop group the Roots, uses his terrific stage voice to capture Pozzo’s first-act bluster without resorting to flailing, but has a harder time with the humbled version of the character who returns in Act II.

At least Drake Bradshaw, in the small role of Godot’s young herald, is sweetly effective in both his appearances. And though Shawn, delivering Lucky’s impossible speech — nine minutes of gibberish — is able to make convincing emotional sense of the moment, the production as a whole doesn’t support his efforts. Vladimir and Estragon check out of the Zoom call for much of the harangue, encouraging us to think we might do so as well.

It’s not that you need to be literal with “Waiting for Godot”; it’s anything but a naturalistic drama. I liked the designer Qween Jean’s past-midnight cowboy look for Hawke and Mets cap and tank top pandemic ensemble for Leguizamo. But if Elliott, working with the Academy Award winner John Ridley’s Nō Studios and the Hollywood producer Frank Marshall, has avoided excessive fealty to Beckett’s instructions — the estate approved the socially distanced production — he has not provided anything as coherent to take their place.

For one thing, the action is awkwardly staged, even beyond the necessity of executing comedy bits when the actors, if not the characters, are calling in from different locations. (The passing of Lucky’s hat, a clear lift from Laurel and Hardy, is totally botched.) At three hours, the show is also long, even bloated. Most problematically, Vladimir’s and Estragon’s embraces, so necessary to the play’s emotional equilibrium, are about as warm here as octopi suckering up to opposite sides of a glass wall.

Far from seeming too modern, though, this “Godot,” especially coming more than a year into the pandemic, seems too passé. Other companies, even no-budget ones like Theater in Quarantine, have long since figured out ways to make an aesthetic out of the limitations of lockdown. Why only now, just as those lockdowns are lifting, is this first-gen take on pandemic play production emerging? About the only expressive use of the medium is in the processing that gives the film the appearance of a dodgy video feed, with freezes and glitches that imitate a poor signal.

You could argue that a dodgy feed is exactly the way “Godot” depicts life: as a poor approximation of what it should be. But in Vladimir and Estragon, Beckett also finds poignancy, humor and the last dregs of physical love, where Elliott and company find only horror. If they are right, what kind of pass have we come to, in which even Beckett’s vision is not bleak enough?

Waiting for Godot
Through June 30; thenewgroup.org

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Newsrust - US Top News: Review: ‘Waiting for Godot’ in the Bleakest Zoom Room Ever
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