David Wheeler of the Yuba College Drama Department has once again produced and directed a masterpiece of excellence that audiences will remember for years to come.
“Waiting for Godot” was written by Irish born novelist Samuel Beckett and is his best known work. First performed in Paris on Jan. 5, 1953, the play poses questions of time and eternity and examines the existential problems of life.
“Waiting for Godot” has been performed in small and large theaters throughout the world in over a dozen languages and sold over a million copies in the original French version. One English translation starred Steve Martin and Robin Williams.
Act I opens on a country road near a tree. Two elderly half-bums half-clowns amuse themselves with hilarious nonsensical conversation that moves in and out at a fast pace from hope to despair. They announce a dozen times to the audience that they are waiting for Godot.
Initially without identity the tramps appear on the cast list as Vladimir and Estragon but address one another as Gogo and Didi. They await someone named Godot, who, they believe, will reward their patience. Pozzo and Lucky enter as master and slave and leave; a small boy, Godot’s messenger arrives to tell them that Godot is not coming. The play ends with Vladimir and Estragon still waiting.
The play is rich ground for symbolism. Possibly Godot is God, rebirth, redemption hope and despair, since Gogo and Didi have memories of a Christian Bible.
But during the time of Godot’s first production when Beckett was pressed for interpretation he denied symbolic explanation.Gogo and Gigi want to kill themselves, but their will to live is stronger than their will to kill themselves, and they rationalize that they are blessed because at least they know what they are doing. They are “Waiting for Godot.”
The opening scene is about nothing and everything. Vladimir, played by Joseph Sabatello, and Estagon, played by Marco Antonio Ruiz, appear on stage dressed as bums waiting for something to happen. They announce to the audience that they are waiting for Godot. Sabatello and Ruiz give a gut-wrenching performance about the hopelessness of questioning the infinite.
While they wait, Pozzo, played by Fine Arts Dean Jay Drury, and Lucky, played by Matt Monaco arrive. Lucky is driven by Pozzo with whip and cruel commands. But when Lucky is commanded by Pozzo to think, Lucky suddenly addresses the audience in a rambling intellectual exercise that poses questions regarding the purpose of life. Finally, he answers himself, saying, “Time will tell.” Drury gives a splendid portrayal of the alter-ego essence of life. This scene defines the meaning of “well done.”
Drury and Monaco concisely characterize the relationship between control and codependence, illustrated by the rope tied around Lucky’s neck. Godot never comes. Instead he sends a “messenger” played by David Cole Wheeler who informs Gigi and Gogo that Godot is not coming.
The depth and excellence of these highly gifted actors did not receive the full appreciation owed to a masterful performance. This is due to community apathy that has haunted each great production directed by David Wheeler and performed by the talented actors enrolled in the Yuba College Drama Department.
Despite the marginal audience of 30 in a theater capacity for over 200, those who attended were rewarded with the enriching experience of witnessing excellence, while those who were not there simply missed out. Ironically, “Waiting for Godot” was written during an era when survivors of World War II knew the meaning of “good” despite the evil hopelessness they faced.
In response to the lack of support for the excellent plays performed at Yuba College, Wheeler stated, “We do such a wide variety of things. I don’t think people realize what they’re missing, especially with the low $7 to $4 ticket. On Broadway the tickets are $60 to $70.”
Local resident Ken Cunnigham said, “I’ve wanted to see this play for along time.”
Deputy Probation Officer Sam Hallford attended the performance with her troop of ten well-mannered young boys from a local boot camp in tow. About the show, she said, “The boys think it’s funny.”