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Review: Quantum tweaks a classic with 'Fat Beckett'

Brainy theater critics and academics have long regaled us with the idea that Samuel Beckett's "Waiting for Godot" is really very funny.

But, most productions prefer to emphasize the more dour and philosophical side of two men waiting at a crossroads, beneath a barren tree for someone -- or maybe something -- that never arrives.

Irish theater critic Vivian Mercier has famously described it as "a play where nothing happens, twice."

It took two women -- Gab Cody in collaboration with Rita Reis -- plus director Sam Turich and Quantum Theatre to finally bring the humor of the play to the forefront.

To be clear, "Fat Beckett," which plays through Dec. 18 at a decaying former schoolhouse in Lawrenceville, is not a production of Beckett's classic. The Beckett estate tightly controls production rights and would never sanction female performers, nor would they allow the liberties that Cody and Reis take with the text.

"Fat Beckett" is Reis and Cody's colorful and very funny feminist response to Beckett's classic.

The setting makes that clear from the outset. Paper lanterns decorate the production's iconic bare and broken tree and the two characters -- Sophie (Cody) and Kiki (Reis) -- set the evening's tone by delivering an amusing introduction engagingly performed in both French and English.

A shadow play illustrates the back story. Sophie and Kiki have lost their beloved goat, Biquette.

Rather than wait by the crossroads as Vladimir and Estragon do, Kiki and Sophie set out to find her, armed with a carrying case of profiterole pastries.

It's likely no accident that the goat's name sounds a lot like the playwright whose work they are riffing on.

The creators' program note explains that their creative journey was an attempt to find an existential clowning piece for themselves in the male-dominated world of comedy.

Cody serves as the leader and necessary dignified foil to Reis' rich off-the wall comedy.

As they journey on foot and by plane, dragging their tree with them, they employ an abundance of satire, physical comedy and wordplay as well as a subtle, but omnipresent, female perspective.

Quantum Theatre provides an apt performance space that offers depth and atmosphere for the proceedings. Black streaks on white ceramic-tiled walls, a rust-encrusted tin ceiling and a string of white light bulbs enhance the feel of the original "Waiting for Godot."

Lighting designer Scott Nelson and scenic and costume designer Kellan Andersen provide low-key enhancements to that atmosphere and some comedic tweaks of their own.

Quantum regulars will appreciate the supportive heating system that keeps the space toasty for almost the entire performance.

Serious Beckett scholars may have a field day teasing out obscure parallels and references to Beckett and the original.

But, those with a more casual acquaintance with the work should enjoy this 75-minute intermission-free experience if they give themselves up to the comedy and allow the existential meanings to surface on their own.

Additional Information:

'Fat Beckett'

Produced by: Quantum Theatre

When: Through Dec. 18 at 8 p.m. Wednesdays-Saturdays and 7 p.m. Sundays

Admission: $35-$48; $18 for students with ID

Where: Old Schoolhouse, 4830 Hatfield St., Lawrenceville

Details: 888-718-4253 or www.quantumtheatre.com

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