It's good occasionally to remind ourselves that Samuel Beckett wrote "Waiting for Godot" in a specific time and place -- the blood-soaked soil of postwar Europe. His protagonists, Vladimir and Estragon, are not abstract mouthpieces. They represent real people who have nothing left but each other.
Director Bain Boehlke's "Godot," which opened Friday at the Jungle Theater, stays grounded in the symbiosis of Beckett's two tramps. Actors Jim Lichtscheidl and Nathan Keepers spare none of the antic fun that are staples of "Godot" productions. But ultimately, we walk away caring for Didi and Gogo -- hoping they will be OK and that the world will notice them.
"Tell him that you saw us," says Lichtscheidl's Vladimir to the boy sent from Mr. Godot. "You did see us."
Lichtscheidl's eyes flood with the desperation of a man who wants simply to be noticed -- much as Arthur Miller asked that "attention must be paid" to Willy Loman.
Lichtscheidl's Vladimir is the caretaker, making sure Nathan Keepers' grouchier Estragon gets fed when hungry and gets sleep when weary. Keepers puts a jaundiced edge on Estragon, but his dedication to Vladimir is assumed, even when the two argue or poke fun.
"Don't touch me, don't speak to me. Stay with me." Is it love, or the comfort of a 50-year relationship? Either way, these two depend on each other.
Oh, and they talk, and talk and talk. Meaninglessness means nothing; talking about meaningless gives it meaning. It becomes a testament.
As Vladimir and Estragon while away an evening, Allen Hamilton's brutish Pozzo, bellows into the twilight with his emaciated slave, Lucky. Charles Schuminski pants like a dying dog, appearing to have one foot in the grave.
These two create a searing portrait of inhumanity and servility. Yet, Hamilton's Pozzo reveals his insecurities and his fear of the slave. Lucky, too, perhaps feels deepest in his bones the wisdom of mere survival. And despite what appears a great inequity in their relationship, these men are every bit as dependent on one another as Vladimir and Estragon. As Pozzo says, "The road seems long when one journeys alone."
Costumer Amelia Cheever has built icons for each character. Hamilton is a bulldozer of bluster; Schuminski looks like a coat hanger for his long duster. Barry Browning's lights find their greatest expression in the moment when night falls and we either rue another day lost or celebrate that we have survived.
Boehlke and his cast make no overt statements of existentialism, religion or psychology here. They let us see those things in the reality of human life.
Graydon Royce • 612-673-7299