by Samuel Beckett
Mark Taper Forum
(135 N. Grand, Los Angeles 90012)
A production of Center Theatre Group
Date of reviewed performance: April 10, 2012
Estragon - Alan Mandell
Vladimir - Barry McGovern
Pozzo - James Cromwell
Lucky - Hugo Armstrong
Boy - LJ Benet
Generally, I begin these reviews by taking a stab at summarizing the play’s plot. In this case, it may a practice best to skip as we deal with one of theatre’s most famous enigmas.
Waiting for Godot has no simple meaning. The play consists of five characters, a naked tree, a rock or two and the sky. Two of the characters are patiently waiting for Godot, a vague acquaintance of theirs whose pending arrival promises to deliver them to comfort and safety from a life of destitution and violence. One of the characters is a pompous sadist and another his broken slave barely hanging on to the end of his literal rope. The final character is a young messenger boy who arrives on two occasions to announce that Godot will not arrive as planned.
Waiting for Godot is an allegory through which theater patrons have been ritualistically searching for meaning since 1953. There are those who feel certain that Godot is a thinly veiled stand-in for God - though Beckett himself has said that Godot does not symbolize God. It is even said that Beckett came to regret naming the absent character with such a phonetic kinsman that it would give rise to those assertions. The keys to the rest of the symbolism are even more elusive.
Although the show is a puzzling parable, the performance Michael Arabian has staged is a clear victory in every way. Alan Mandell delivers a sensitive, heart-tugging performance as the tattered and tired Estragon (or “Gogo”). He is reminiscent of everyone you have ever met that you have wanted to scoop up and take care of, even as they continue putting one foot in front of the other anyway.
The rest of the cast is also excellent. Barry McGovern wonderfully plays fellow vagrant Vladimir - an optimistic sort with a plan (albeit a passive one); James Cromwell turns in a masterful performance as the egotist Pozzo; Hugo Armstrong as the long-suffering slave, Lucky, and LJ Benet as angelic errand boy (“Boy”) complete the perfect cast.
Other highlights of the show include the costume designs of Christopher Acebo and the projection design of Brian Gale. The costumes are all so well conceived and actualized that each piece speaks volumes without the actors within them saying a word. Similarly, a projection of a lonely man walking in silhouette towards the audience at the very start of the show brings home the isolation of Vladimir and Estragon's world in the most efficient and intense of ways.
Waiting for Godot runs through Sunday, April 22nd, however weeknight performances are now sold out. Tickets can still be had for 2:30pm and 8:00pm on Saturday, April 21st and 1:00pm and 6:30pm on Sunday, April 22nd. Ticket prices range from $45 to $70 and can be purchase through Center Theatre Group's website. For more information, call 213-628-2772.
Directed by Michael Arabian
Stage Manager - Susie Walsh
Set Design by John Iacovelli
Costume Design by Christopher Acebo
Lighting and Projection Design by Brian Gale
Casting by Erika Sellin