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Pict Classic Theatre's no-show 'Godot' still worth the wait

| Monday, June 9, 2014, 9:00 p.m.
Justin Merriman | Tribune-Review
Alan Stanford 'Pozzo', right, and Ken Bolden 'Lucky' left, rehearse Samuel Beckett’s “Waiting for Godot” at Charity Randall Theatre in Oakland on Sunday, June 1, 2014.

Once again, Godot failed to show up twice.

As it has for some 61 years, his absence left the audience with more questions than answers.

Godot is the title character in Samuel Beckett's absurdist drama “Waiting for Godot,” which Pict Classic Theatre is performing at the Charity Randall Theatre in Oakland.

As students of 20th-century literature or drama know, “Waiting for Godot” focuses on two passive, mild-mannered tramps named Estragon and Vladimir who spend two days at a barren crossroads waiting for the much anticipated, but never seen, Godot to arrive.

About halfway through each of the play's two acts, Pozzo and his ironically named servant, Lucky, pass through with their own subtextual mysteries.

Beckett may have invented them just to break up the tedium of Estragon and Vladimir's isolation, or he might have been inserting messages about the relationship between bosses and workers.

Much ink has been spilled and many friendships between intellectuals dissolved over questions the drama raises: Is Godot God? Is he really going to save them and from what? Why doesn't he show up? Why do they continue to wait?

Through the years, Beckett famously refused to discuss what he meant. He preferred to keep us guessing.

Meanings and messages remain elusive and changeable. Each person will come away from the two-hour, 15-minute performance with a different interpretation.

At the June 6 preview performance, a number of audience members opted to bail during intermission. That raises yet another question: Why do so many of us keep showing up to keep watch with Estragon and Vladimir when we know Godot will be a no-show?

When I'm feeling cynical, I suspect the drama is Beckett's little private joke that he could get people — lots of thoughtful, intelligent, articulate people — to pay for the privilege of showing up to wait for an event they know isn't going to happen.

Or maybe he was just anticipating the 21st century, when we wait endlessly on hold in the belief that our call is really important to some corporate entity in the service economy.

There are some good reasons to show up at Pict Classic Theatre's high-quality production.

The four principle adult actors — Martin Giles, James FitzGerald, Alan Stanford and Ken Bolden — turn in performances that are meticulous and precise in movement and speech. They may be doing nothing of obvious importance, but they do it masterfully and with conviction and apparent ease.

Elliot Pullen and Shay Freund alternate in the role of the small boy who arrives to say Godot will not be coming today, but maybe tomorrow.

Stanford, Pict's artistic and executive director who is listed as scenic and co-costume designer, has created an artfully spare setting that perfectly supports this abstract production — a tree, a rock, a powder-blue floor and backdrop on which co-lighting designers Cindy Limauro and Christopher Popowich generate some lovely effects.

Director Aoife Spillane-Hinks is on record as saying the play is a comedy. She embellishes the action with some nice stylistic touches evocative of Buster Keaton or Charlie Chaplin. Some moments will raise the occasional bark of laughter or wry smile. But few will call this mystifying drama a comedy.

Alice T. Carter is the theater critic for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-320-7808, acarter@tribweb.com or via Twitter @ATCarter_Trib.

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