Waiting for Godot

Rated 4.0

Waiting for Godot is famously famous—if you’ve been to college, the title’s probably familiar. But stop 100 people in the street, and you’ll find no more than 10 who’ve actually seen it. (Find someone who’s seen it thrice, and you’ve probably found an actor or a theater critic.)The play features two weary old guys who are waiting for Godot, except that they don’t know when he’s coming and aren’t sure who he is. Although many regard the play as an absurdist masterpiece, Milton Shulman, a reviewer for London’s Evening Standard from 1953 to 1991, sniffed that Godot “tries to lift superficiality to significance through obscurity.” The play’s awesome intellectual reputation scares off some, but most actors love it. Their ardor wins over audiences, who often are surprised to find themselves laughing, because they’d gotten the idea that Godot is something to respect rather than enjoy.

And this brings us to the enjoyable revival at the Actor’s Theatre, which reprises its 2003 production. Savvy old pros Ed Claudio and Dan Harlan brought it back because, as Claudio put it, “we wanted to do it one more time before we’re too old.”

Like many a labor of love, it’s also a family affair. Claudio’s son Michael plays the pitiful Lucky, a slave. The younger Claudio has developed into a potent actor, and, yes, this is his first Godot. (He leaves for New York this summer. It’s our loss.) Slender Mark Heckman (Pozzo, with a bullwhip) and Ian Strother (as a boy) complete the cast. Everyone does pretty well, but it’s the elder Claudio and Harlan who make it hum.

This production is all about the acting. There are few other frills, but Godot doesn’t need technology. The draw is the pure and simple pleasure of watching Sacramento’s elder statesmen of the stage having a blast while putting a great script through its paces.