Don't Wait to See “Waiting for Godot”

Rarely is there a time in life when something isn’t holding us back. Be it a person, a job, an illness, or something less concrete like fear, more often than not there’s some external circumstance that’s keeping us from reaching our next goal, our next destination. Such is the premise of Samuel Beckett’s timeless classic, Waiting for Godot, which recently opened at the Jungle Theater in Minneapolis. It’s a play set in Anywhere U.S.A. at an unspecified time with characters that could be taken literally or as stand-ins for you and me. It’s this lack of specificity that makes it such a powerful work of art—one that’s made even more poignant and rich by the cast assembled by Jungle director Bain Boehlke.

Nathan Keepers and Jim Lichtscheidl
(Michal Daniel)

Jim Lichtscheidl and Nathan Keepers set the tone for the play as Vladamir and Estragon, or Dede and Gogo, respectively. We find the men waiting beside a tree for Godot, the owner of the private property the two have trespassed on days earlier. Before they can continue their journey to find work, the 80-year-old men must first face Godot and receive his permission to leave.

To say these veteran actors are talented would be to do them a disfavor. Their facial expressions, body language, vocal inflections, and chemistry create a theatrical atmosphere equivalent of surround-sound and 3D visual effects at an Imax movie: the men not only draw you in, they hold your attention at such a degree that I often found myself caring less about what they were saying, and concentrating instead on seeing just how wide Lichtscheidl’s eyes could get or how far back Keepers could bend before toppling. Seeing them play off each other is reason enough alone to see this show.

Rounding out the cast is Allen Hamilton as Pozzo and Charles Schuminski as his slave, Lucky. Pozzo is a once-wealthy man now taken to wandering the countryside. He keeps his ancient servant, Lucky, eerily portrayed by Schuminski as a Gollom-like figure, tied to a rope and depends on him for everything, from sitting to putting on his jacket. The duo serves as entertainment for Dede and Gogo when they first cross paths, but when they return the next night, it’s with a more ominous tone: Dede remembers them from before, but neither Gogo, Pozzo, nor Lucky recall the previous encounter. This lack of recognition triggers doubt in Dede, leading him to question everything from Godot’s existence to his own.

Waiting for Godot is not a play with answers—it’s a play with questions. Who are you? What drives your actions? Who controls your destiny? How do others see you? It’s the kind of play that embeds itself within your mind; one you find yourself mulling over while staring out the window at a stoplight. It feels too real at one moment, far-fetched at another. While your takeaway will almost certainly be different than mine, one thing is certain: you won’t find a cast of characters better suited to simultaneously make you think and entertain you. So: what are you waiting for?

Waiting for Godot
Through September 30
Jungle Theater, 951 Lyndale Ave, S., Mpls.