Yes, that’s how you pronounce it, according to Patrick Stewart’s Vladimir. He’s the one who keeps reminding Estragon (Ian McKellen) that “we can’t leave; we’re waiting for Godot!” (To which Gogo invariably responds with a disappointed groan.) Apparently the correct pronunciation has been a matter of controversy for a long time, with some claiming that GOD-oh is too obvious a hint at the identity of the dilatory Mr. Godot, and others insisting that GOD-oh is what Samuel Beckett said.
Ah, Samuel Beckett. What is it about these Nobel-prize winning Irishmen? Was there ever a more intense-looking fellow? Yes, he looks half-mad, but in a good way.
Excuse me. I had to pause in order to lave myself in pungent Google photos of Mr. Beckett. He seems to be the love child of Lorenzo Medici and a rather alarmed heron.
Walking into the Cort Theater to see Waiting for Godot a couple of days before New Year’s Eve, I didn’t quite know what to expect. I tried to read the play on the plane, but had an unexpectedly avant-garde experience when my Kindle malfunctioned, and kept showing me bits of the text–but not the beginning or the end. I knew the play was about two guys waiting around for someone who never shows up. To be frank, it did not sound scintillating. I thought it would be like those Modernist paintings that leave me cold (I won’t say which ones, in case you love Mondrian and De Kooning).
Instead, I found myself laughing and grinning at the comic byplay between childlike Gogo and serious Didi, filled with sadness for the cringing Lucky, and marveling at the bombastic Pozzo’s reversal of fortune. The language echoes Beckett’s master, James Joyce, but is more accessible. My favorite bit happens after Vladimir asks sadly, “What do we do now?” The two men look about them. There is nothing to be seen but a desolate, bare-branched tree.
What about hanging ourselves?
Hmm. It’d give us an erection.
(highly excited). An erection!
With all that follows. Where it falls mandrakes grow. That’s why they shriek when you pull them up. Did you not know that?
Let’s hang ourselves immediately!
Unfortunately, this method of escape proves impracticable, as the tree is not stout enough to support Didi’s weight, and the plan might separate the two. Their steadfast friendship in the face of the Interminable Wait is one of the most memorable aspects of the play, even though Gogo sometimes plaintively questions “whether we wouldn’t have been better off alone.”
The contrasting personalities of Gogo and Didi, less vivid on the page, are appealingly embodied in the performances of Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart, two undeniably Beautiful Men. Both were superb, but McKellen stole the show. So winsomely decrepit an old charmer was he, with his brilliant blue eyes and shock of disordered white hair, that I fully expected to find Gogo plush dolls for sale in the lobby.
I’ve always loved Patrick Stewart, ever since he played a sexy but dangerous (and doomed) Sejanus in the 1976 BBC miniseries I, Claudius. With hair. Then of course, there was Captain Picard, who gave all the ladies (and not a few gents) shivers every time he said, “Make it so!” He also proved that bald men can be extremely sexy…
The two have excellent chemistry in this production, with Stewart playing the more alert and responsible of the two, and McKellen his mischievous and barely lucid friend (who nevertheless has a dexterous habit of spinning his hat before donning it).
Their performances are complemented by those of Shuler Hensley as the large-bellied brute Pozzo, and Billy Crudup as the unfortunate lackey who goes by the ironic name of Lucky. This part of the play is harder to watch, with its raw depiction of human power relationships, but when the silently suffering Lucky finally breaks out with his gonzo Thought about the nature of God, it brings the house down.
My one less-than-enchanted observation about this play is that it does not, in fact, show the human condition, but rather the male condition. It is as though the characters are living in a world whether the slightest suspicion of a female presence has never intruded on their masculine society (such as it is). For a while, I toyed with the idea of an all-female version, but it would ruin the best joke in the play (see above). And too many lines would have to be changed, though I suppose that a female Didi might well suffer from the womanly counterpart of his prostate woes. I would keep in all the bits about belching and farting and drooling and snot. In fact, Melissa McCarthy would be perfect as Gogo…