Absurd times

Waiting for Godot

The tramps (Ryan Berrigan and Daryl Newman) and Pozzo (April Clelia) try to keep Lucky (Blake Hogen, floor) from thinking in a rehearsal of <i>Waiting for Godot</i>.

The tramps (Ryan Berrigan and Daryl Newman) and Pozzo (April Clelia) try to keep Lucky (Blake Hogen, floor) from thinking in a rehearsal of Waiting for Godot.

Photo By David Robert

Waiting for Godot is a play about everything and nothing. For many decades, this modern classic has intrigued audiences with its mix of simple production values and complex themes.

UNR’s upcoming student production of Godot is sure to give audiences plenty to think about. Director Domenic Procaccini III proposed this play for a student production after reading it last summer. “The simplicity struck me as so beautiful,” he says. “It’s really a touching piece.”

Two tramps, Vladimir (Daryl Newman) and Estragon (Ryan Berrigan), wait near a leafless tree for a man named Godot to arrive. As an absurdist play, Waiting for Godot makes no attempt to anchor the story in realism, so exactly who Godot is and why they are waiting for him is never revealed.

The cast of five includes April Clelia Grenot as Pozzo and Blake Hogen as Lucky, a master and servant who wander into this world and share in the antics of its two central figures. Melody Ricketts plays the Boy, who acts as a messenger within the story.

Written by Irish playwright Samuel Beckett, Godot was first performed in 1953. Beckett was one of the leading innovators of a dramatic style called the “Theatre of the Absurd” that was especially popular in the 1950s and ‘60s and was a partial reaction to the horrors of World War II. An acceptance of absurdity seemed to be the best way to cope with the anxieties of the atomic age. To the absurdists, it is simply ridiculous to long for rationality in an irrational world.

Berrigan enjoys the absurd aspects of the play. “The world has turned very random,” he says. “The play is as random as the world is.”

Although the play is unrealistic, it is not inaccessible. If you’ve ever been stuck in an airport, you will easily recognize the absurdity of an interminable wait, and you may have wondered whether order has completely disappeared from the world.

Sound confusing and bleak? Actually, it’s anything but that. Vladimir and Estragon—or Didi and Gogo, as they call each other—are really just a couple of clowns, and watching their buffoonery is like watching the Marx Brothers.

“I think it’s hilarious,” says Newman, who plays Vladimir. “I have trouble not cracking up myself while I’m out there.”

The acting calls for lots of physical comedy, high energy and rapid, back-and-forth dialogue interspersed with philosophical reflections. The actors enjoy the fast-changing pace of the play, which keeps them on their toes.

“It’s really difficult because you have to change emotions so quickly,” says Newman. “Within two minutes, I’ll hit four different emotions.”

The intimate setting of the Student Theatre provides a perfect space for this production. While Godot traditionally has been staged with only a barren tree for a set and the tramps looking like a couple of Charlie Chaplins, Procaccini has chosen a more modern approach to the set and costume designs. In particular, the essential tree will be covered with black-and-white photos of different parts of trees to emphasize the disjointed aspect of the play.

Ultimately, what makes this play so timeless is its excellent dialogue and its concern with universal themes. For Procaccini, the play is about “two men dealing with the overall existential question: What is the meaning of life? That is such a big topic to take on. It’s something that everyone ponders from time to time.”