BWW Reviews: TCT’s Impressive WAITING FOR GODOT is Absurdly Hilarious, Dark
The Catastrophic Theatre(TCT) opened their new season at their new Catastrophic Theatre space with an astounding production of Samuel Beckett's stark tragicomedy WAITING FOR GODOT. The company has used the performance space in the past in collaboration with DiverseWorks, but the 1119 East Freeway location is now solely theirs, giving them a fantastic home to present their fascinating work.
Samuel Beckett's WAITING FOR GODOT is an existential masterpiece. The play functions as a love letter with the urgency and despair of a suicide note to the inescapable repetitive nature of our lives, if you will. With a great sense of witty humor, Samuel Beckett illustrates the futility of waiting for salvation while exploring why we insist on doing it.
Direction by Jason Nodler cleverly captures the darkness and the absurd hilarity of the piece, expertly juxtaposing them to pristine affect. His mission is to destroy the audience, whether it be by disturbing us or amazing us. With his presentation of WAITING FOR GODOT, he fantastically does both. The heavy but brightly sardonic pill is fun to swallow because Jason Nodler makes it vastly accessible. Impressively, in the middle of the second act, Jason Nodler manages to easily captivate and enthrall audiences with four characters lying on the floor for about 12 minutes. In this moment, one doesn't speak at all, two of the speaking characters faces are unable to be seen by the audience, and one has his face half visible but turns to where the audience only sees his bottom. For this spectacular display of integrity and skillful direction alone, Jason Nodler deserves the highest praises. Yet, his whole production reduced me to hearty guffaws and left me despising the futility of our squalid lives; therefore, there is no denying that I was both disturbed and amazed.
Greg Dean's Vladimir is infused with long-lasting optimism. Everyday, as prescribed, he waits for Godot to come, never losing hope that Godot will arrive tomorrow. Greg Dean is deftly energetic and lively, using a typically bright tone of voice and comically awkward mannerisms to complete the portrait. Likewise, in the second act, the audience sees that Vladimir's recall is rather strong. Despite his ability to recall and presumably critically think, Greg Dean's Vladimir remains complacently certain that Godot will come, mirroring the ever faithful in our own world.
Charlie Scott masterfully plays the forgetfully incisive yet quick-tempered Estragon. His view is hilariously more pessimistic, reminding Vladimir that they always wait for Godot, for salvation, and it never comes. They wait day in and day out, part, go their separate ways, and reconvene the next day to run through the same monotonous and never-changing task. However, in spite of his perceptiveness, Charlie Scott skillfully illustrates the fact that Estragon does not remember yesterday from last year or even fifty years ago. He is so consumed by the repetition of life that every day blends together into one long disparaging day in his memory.
Playing pig-headed Pozzo, Kyle Sturdivant brings the utterly despicable character to sparkling and uproarious life. Pozzo is cruel in his treatment of Lucky and horribly misguided in what should bring pleasure and joy to life, seemingly enjoying only the ideal of schadenfreude. Moreover, Kyle Sturdivant's Pozzo appears to be of a wealthier and highborn class inside the world of WAITING FOR GODOT, providing fantastic insight into modern class struggles. Yet, when he is "blind" in the second act, Kyle Strudivant pristinely displays that Pozzo can be humbled and that he does possess surprising insight.
As Pozzo's manservant, Lucky, Troy Schulze immaculately creates a striking and stirring character that fills our hearts with woe. With sincere and profound inspiration, Troy Schulze trembles and quakes with fear, agony, and exhaustion the entire time he is on stage. Likewise, he only does as he is commanded, fully illustrating his position as Pozzo's chattel. In spite of this, his performance is elevated beyond impressive and inspired to being one of theatrical legend when he delivers Lucky's mesmerizing and humorous stream of consciousness monologue with the speed and dexterity of neurons firing synapses. His entire performance amazes, but the monologue is what audiences will remember and discuss for some time to come.
Ty Doran's Boy is polite, addressing Vladimir with "sir" and speaking in a socially appropriate and curt manner.
Set Design by Greg Dean radiantly captures the stark and bleak ambience that audiences associate with Samuel Beckett and WAITING FOR GODOT. The walls are painted in a dismal and textured grey. The floor is painted like a barren, desolate wasteland. The stage is set with one rock and one scrawny, almost entirely lifeless tree. The Set Design is immaculately sparse and delightfully unappealing in its harshly austere state.
John Smetak's Lighting Design brilliantly switches between day and night with the ease of a light switch flipping. The daytime lighting is inhospitably warm ambers recreating the look of a strong, angry sun beating down on a desert. Night is conveyed with placid blues and a gobo projection of the moon against the back wall.
Costume Design by Kelly Switzer skillfully captures the vaudeville-like vibe present in Samuel Beckett's writing for WAITING FOR GODOT in her clothing choices. She has remarkably frayed and dirtied the clothing, making them appear to be extremely worn and exposed to the harsh weather and climate that the set and lights suggest.
Additionally, praise must be given to the make-up artist for the show. Marvelously in sync with the severe lighting effects, make-ups for the characters vacillate between the roughness of over-exposed and often tanned skin on Vladimir and Estragon to the painful, glowing redness of fresh sunburns on Pozzo. This attention to detail really sells the believability of the world these characters inhabit to the audience.
TCT's dark and slyly humorous production of WAITING FOR GODOT is sure to amaze audiences. The production is spellbinding and mesmerizing. Leaving the theatre, I found myself magnificently moved to depression about the fruitlessness of life, which is to say that Jason Nodler, his cast, and his crew perfectly did everything that they should have. Their production of WAITING FOR GODOT made me laugh abundantly and think plentifully. It made me reevaluate the value of life. It moved me. It disturbed me. It amazed me.
WAITING FOR GODOT runs at The Catastrophic Theatre through April 13, 2013. All performances are Pay What You Can. For more information and tickets, please visit http://catastrophictheatre.com or call (713) 522 – 2723.