Our evening begins at the Shoebox Theater for tonight’s performance of “Waiting for Godot.” It is difficult to describe what this play is really about because I suspect everyone has a different interpretation. It is a very thought provoking play that is a bit more like a puzzle as one tries to make sense of the various pieces playwright, Beckett, uses to tell his story. One continues to ponder the intent of Beckett’s work long after exiting the theater.
The stage set consists of one large, mostly dead tree with only a few leaves clinging for life at the tips of its branches. The tree is apropos to the lives of the two main characters, a couple of vagabonds named Vladimir and Estragon.
They are waiting for the mysterious figure “Godot” to come along with the vague promise of miraculously transforming the bleak and meaningless existence that they are seemingly powerless to overcome on their own. It is a little like watching like two adults waiting for Santa to arrive.
My take on this story is that “Waiting for Godet” is a thinly veiled parody of waiting for God. It dares audience to ask the questions, “What if there is no God and no promise of eternal life? What does that mean? How would that change the way one is currently choosing to live? How does that impact one’s self efficacy? How does spirituality affect self efficacy?
There are moments when Estrogen seems to challenge Vladmir’s belief in Godet’s coming and leaves him. But he always returns to the safety of belief in preference to the uncertainty of self determination. It is a dreary play in many ways. One feels the emptiness of the characters long, meaningless, and wasted lives. This Shoebox Theater is very intimate, and as an audience member, the misery of the two main characters is all the more palpable. But I loved it. Beckett is asking essential questions that many feel they dare not ask under the guise of faith.
While all of the performances were very good, my personal favorite was Pozzo, portrayed by Todd Hermannson. Perhaps because his character, along with his slave, Lucky, were the most puzzling. What was the playwrights intent for their encounter with Vladimir and Estragon? The schizophrenic diatribe of Lucky were his only lines, but he made every word count. This is a play that doesn’t provide any clear answers about the meaning of life, but asks the audience to find the truths that guide the meaning of their own existence and question the validity of those truths.
After the theater, we are off to the Double Barrel Tavern for a nightcap. I am still trying to figure out why I am not more enthused about this place. It is decorated in a western-themed style that is cute enough. It has a menu that is good enough. It has a cocktail menu that is interesting enough. But in the end it just was not memorable enough. The Double Barrel has no particular feature that really speaks to me in any original or outstanding way. Sometimes an authentic dump of a place is far more interesting and entertaining than a place that is just good enough. Sometimes the biggest hole in the wall bars have the most incredible bands along with great people watching or really good for the money. But the Double Barrel had nothing that beckons me to come back here. The cocktail I had was okay, but nothing outstanding. The onion rings were good, but no one thing was particularly great. My assessment of the Double Barrel is this: solid.
Waiting for Godot
I have always wanted to see Waiting for Godot. I read the play in college, at the end of last century and it is certainly a standard metaphor for something that never shows up,
So when there was a production by the Northwest Classical Theater Collaborative it was time.
The production was in the well named Shoe Box theater, a oblong space with 40 seats and there are no bad seats in the house.
It was an excellent production, both in the setting and the performance. My only quibble was the floor. Yes, the floor. But every footfall was loud. Clomp clomp clomp. Stupid to notice, right? It should not have been distracting, but it was one of those issues that once you notice, you keep noticing it, like a soft noise when trying to fall asleep.
The play is one large metaphor, every action and word a stand-in for something else, the meaning of which I have forgotten since college.
It is definitely the kind of play to discuss what it was all about. So where to go for the discussion? The Shoebox is near Ladd’s Addition, just off the SE Division, yet another part of the city to undergo a remarkable change this century.
We have been relying on the Willamette Week Bar guide and it points us to the Double Barrel.
A nice open lounge with a thing for deer heads and antlers. They have pinball and a fireplace and it would be a nice place to spend a cold, rainy Portland night. Like that night.
I ordered a soft shell crab sandwich with onion rings, but good, the onion rings the way they should be: thin and lightly breaded. Combined with a Manhattan followed by a Vodka/Hibiscus based cocktail, it was time to talk the meaning of Godot and of Art.
I will leave it to you to determine the meaning of Godot, but I will note that I had no idea as to why Pozzo was blind in the second act and what the ‘meaning’ was. I have since read up on the play so I have it from authority what it meant, assuming they are right. It is nice to have a play with ambiguity that requires a little post show homework.
Kerry and I disagree on one issue about art. I think the the purpose of the author of a work of art is unimportant, that it should stand on its own merits. We know nothing about Shakespeare and can still enjoy his work. Kerry thinks it is important to understand the intent of the author to understand the art. I will say that in reading about this play the next day it was interesting to know what Beckett meant to say, but the knowledge did not help me understand the work better. It is a play I will want to see again after I read the Cliff Notes in advance.
And in a clever and interesting twist on the play, they actually had Godot show up at the end of the play. Evidently Godot is a Republican Presidential candidate. Who knew?