Left to Right: Richard Rundell (Pozzo), Chris Rippel (Vladimir) and Tony Cordova (Estragon)
Left to Right: Chris Rippel (Vladimir), Tony Cordova (Estragon), and Jackson Whelpley (the boy)
Left to Right: Left to Right: Chris Rippel (Vladimir), Lior Lapid (Lucky), and Tony Cordova (Estragon)
May 16-Jun 01, 2003
'Godot' comes to the Black Box -- maybe
- By Cheryl Thornburg, Las Cruces Sun News
When the No Strings Theatre Company decided to "take it outside" it had nothing to do with settling an argument -- but rather adding a new dimension to its theater productions. Director Scott Lunsford chose to set Samuel Beckett's 50-year-old "Waiting for Godot" in this inviting, unique space and it gives the classic play new life.
"Godot" is one of those plays that provokes first puzzlement, then discussion and thought. "What does it mean?" "Who does this character represent?" The answers are as numerous and diverse as those watching the play.
The sometimes disjointed and circular dialogue is confusing at first, but gradually begins to make sense by the second act and the bizarre characters sort of grow on you.
As the play opens, two tramps are hanging around a fairly nondescript area, waiting for Mr. Godot. As they banter and try to find ways of passing the time, it is apparent that they have done this before.
Tony Cordova and Chris Rippel play the friends, Estragon and Vladimir, who have very different personalities. Estragon, or Gogo, is a half-empty sort of guy and Vladimir, or Didi, is a half-full type.
While they wait, they think about what's wrong with the world -- with life -- and hope that eventually Godot will turn up and make things better. But he never comes. Every day a boy, played by first-grader Jackson Whelpley, comes with a message from Godot saying he will not come today, but will tomorrow.
Cordova's rich, full-bodied voice fills the courtyard space, commanding the audience's attention. Rippel matches him word for word with powerful retorts and engaging movements. The two make the most of this unique space, freed from the confines of a stage.
As commanding as their performance is, young Whelpley manages to steal every scene he's in.
What really adds to the unsettling nature of the play are the two remaining characters: Pozzo, played by Richard Rundell, and Lucky, played by Lior Lapid. Pozzo is a cruel man traveling with his servant.
Rundell seems to relish cracking a long whip and jerking the thick rope attached to the over-burdened and long-suffering Lucky. Rundell seems to be at his best when playing villains.
Lapid is haunting in his portrayal of the beleaguered manservant who leaps at Pozzo's every command. The servant's role is one of the most demanding in the play, both physically and emotionally, and Lapid delivers a magnificent performance. The scene where Pozzo orders him to "Think!" is both provocative and prophetic.
This play forces you to think about life, about God, about the condition of man and who knows what else. The imagery and positioning of the actors -- particularly those alluding to the crucifixion -- are powerful and compelling.
The lighting, sparse set and overstated costumes add to the parable-like quality of the production. Jeanne Luper designed the costumes, Barbara Alford designed the props and Peter Herman designed the lighting.
'Godot a Go-got a must see
- By L. A. "Lucky" Coutant, -
If word of mouth hasn't already reached you, the No Strings Theatre Company's production of Samuel Beckett's 'Waiting for Godot' is superb, and should not be missed by anyone who cares about classic absurdist theatre, brilliant acting. ingeniously minimalist settings. and getting more existential bang for their buck than can usually be had at the local superplex.
The play takes place in a desolate, desert-like setting. Two apparent tramps, Estragon ("Gogo") and Vladimir ("Didi") engage in conversation and confrontations ranging in scope from questions about the authenticity and nature of Biblical versions of the Crucifixion to exegetic analyses of the relative benefits of carrots versus turnips.
These two principals are waiting for a gentleman named Godot to arrive and, while they wait, they encounter three other characters. First the dog-like Lucky appears. overburdened with the paraphernalia of his master, Pozzo, who is connected to his servant with an almost stage-length rope. Eventually a young boy, as messenger from Godot, makes two appearances.
Pozzo's decision to rest and engage Gogo and Didi in philosophical conversation complicates both the play's ostensible progress and meaning. Audience members may be led to wonder If the two tramps represent the thieves crucified with Jesus. Is the long-suffering Lucky a surrogate Savior?
Is Pozzo the 'well' of benevolent dictatorship he presents himself as being, or a hypocritical sadist evoking at once the Roman Empire's stance in reference to Christ's threat and the overweening self-centeredness of all "masters"?
Is the small boy, with his admonitions that Didi and Gogo must continue to wait for his master, Godot. an angel from God, the spirit of some long-lost purity that the other characters in the play can never recapture. or. as the goat herder opposed to his brother, the shepherd. a symbol of classical art opposed to Christianity?
Or is the entire play a metaphor for Beckett's own experiences in the French underground, where waiting for a connection, risking constant torture and beatings. while never being entirely certain of the effect of one's actions and the nature of one's "master" were constants?
Is the play a tragi-comic indictment of the human need to make sense of an essentially meaningless existence? Are the continual inquiries, entreatments. and denunciations of the characters a bleak version of what we so blithely refer to as "senior moments?"
These and other questions are continually evoked and then glossed by the play. And the audience delights in the comedy-from the physical to the metaphysical- while it writhes in the grip of more profound considerations.
The cast for this production is outstanding. Tony Cordova's deep voice and ample person perfectly charac-terize Estragon's gloomy certainty. And Chris Rippel's Vladimir provides Cordova with multiple levels of sanguine counterpoint. Richard Rundell's Pozzo is perfect- alternately urbane, sneering, brutal, and pitiful.
As Lucky, Lior Lapid is astonishing both in his ability to endure the physical demands of his role and in his ability to deliver one of 20th century theatre's most difficult speeches with a clarity at once comic and chilling. And, as the young messenger. Jackson Whelpley's grace and gravity command the stage. Cordova and Rippel alternate between brilliant bits of physical comedy-from pratfalls to routines styled on the Marx Brothers an Laurel and Hardy-and agonized inquiries. Some of Rundell's speeches invoke Lear as much as L.B.J. Scott Lunsford's directorial style is deft and non-invasive: he obviously trusts his actors enough to let the play speak through them.
Jeanne Luper's classic costumes suit this classic play. The minimalist set adds only one concession to 21st century malaise: an ancient television broadcasts a film loop of a blue moon. And this ironic exhibition of "nature" confined by technology is the only editorial comment Mr. Lunsford needs to add to this splendid production.
Fifty years after its first performance. "Waiting for Godot" retains its vitality and singularly perplexing essence. It's a play for the ages and Las Cruces is fortunate indeed to have a production company with the energy and talent to produce such remarkable small theater.
No seating plan has been posted.