McGill’s Waiting for Godot is absurd fun

A menacing tree stretches its branches towards the audience, and an empty stage stares it down. Nothing to be done but watch the acerbic, dark and witty production of Waiting for Godot.

“Nothing to be done” – that is how the play begins, and that is the challenge when creating a production of nothing. The play revolves around two characters, Vladimir and Estragon, who are waiting for someone named Godot beside a tree. While Godot never shows up, a master and slave, Pozzo and Lucky, do pass by. A boy, Godot’s worker, also approaches, telling the two to keep waiting, Godot is sure to come tomorrow.

McGill’s Tuesday Night Caf Theatre’s performance of Samuel Beckett’s 1953 classic is a refreshing take on a work students are more used to reading than watching. Director Holly Greene uses this to her advantage, playing on the body in ways readers would never imagine. She adds farce to the performances, using the tripping, whipping and crying characters to lighten the bleak mood of the play.

Some actors, however, pull this off better than others. The spark and power of the play rests largely on the performance of Kyle MacDougall, who plays Estragon. MacDougall has excellent timing and he falls surprisingly naturally into a role that is so self-referential. MacDougall doesn’t fail to recognize that, and he plays with the audience just as readers would have hoped. He manages to convince, somehow, that he is weak, needy, and dependent on Vladimir, yet perhaps also the more self-aware character.

Max Woertendyke kept up the more long-winded lines of Vladimir, but unfortunately, he screamed many of them at the audience. Some of Beckett’s best words were lost as Woertendyke’s volume increased. He did, still, pass reasonably well as the more confident of the two characters, playing on the farce as well as the misery.

Adam Conter’s portrayal of Pozzo added an absurdist punch to the play. He took Beckett’s loud, self-interested and sadistic character to the extreme. Not only is this Pozzo loud, but he walks oddly, does a little dance every time before he sits down and he has funny triangle-shaped eyebrows like an evil cartoon character. His servant, played by Danny Coleman, joins in the ridiculous, but his constant panting did get a little distracting. Ok, he’s tired, but does he have to be tired so loudly?

Costume designer, Elizabeth Bruce, also deserves a nod for her inventive transformation of a fully grown man into a child using only his costume. Let’s just say his arms became his legs.

This is a must see for any Beckett fanatics, and a must see just for MacDougall’s performance. Don’t be scared away by the bleak reputation of the play, or the idea of nothing happening. The circles of the play, the repetitions and inertia are provocative rather than dismal. Enjoy a night of brilliant writing, good acting, and certainly, a fair bit of fun.

The play continues until Saturday at McGill’s Morris Hall. For reservations, call 398-6600.

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