James Rodriguez as Estragon and Dave Gangler as Vladimir in Theatre Pro Rata’s staging of ‘Waiting for Godot’
Theatre Pro Rata presents Samuel Beckett’s “Waiting for Godot” at the Hollywood Theater in northeast Minneapolis through July 23.
Critics seem to agree that, despite the stifling heat in the old building, this show is “worth the wait.”
At intermission, I offered the man sitting behind me $10 for his bottle of Mountain Dew. He wanted $20, so we had no deal, but such was the value of a cold drink among us languishing in the heat of an abandoned building. Actually, that guy did me a solid because a tall Dew likely would have necessitated a subsequent visit to the Porta-Potty outside the Hollywood Theater in northeast Minneapolis. No air conditioning, no running water; just this dusty, disheveled auditorium teeming with ghosts — the perfect location to consider Theatre Pro Rata’s production of Samuel Beckett’s “Waiting for Godot.”
Director Ryan Ripley and his cast of able buffoons are emphasizing the comedy and letting the philosophy take care of itself, which seems like exactly the right choice. They don’t overdo it, they just follow Beckett’s lead. After all, absurdity is more often laughable than it is tragic. The outlines of the play are fairly simple. Vladimir (Didi) and Estragon (Gogo) are waiting. In each act, they have different coping strategies for passing the time. In each act, they are visited by the slightly menacing giant form of Pozzo (David Tufford) and his hapless servant-on-a-leash Lucky (Jesse Corder). In each act, they receive a visit from Godot’s messenger boy (Hazel Cutting), telling them that Godot has been delayed and will probably not arrive until tomorrow. Within that framework, all sorts of comic shenanigans come to pass.
Gangler and Rodriguez make for an effective duo, playing the Vaudevillian moments and the crises with equal aplomb. Their two-man-act moments can be a lot of fun, but the characters really come alive when they begin to plumb the depths of their collective despair only to be saved by the friendship that has kept them coming back to this field, day after day, for years on end.
Director Ryan Ripley’s production is brisk and energetic. He seems to understand that the Hollywood is not the place for the deliberate, stylized, balletic interpretation so in vogue these days. His Godot emphasizes physicality and pratfalls. It doesn’t pause to savor Beckett’s opulent language, or his philosophical/quasi-theological musings. This Godot moves.
Have you seen Theatre Pro Rata’s production of Waiting for Godot? If so, what did you think? Share your thoughts in the comments section.