The Austin Chronicle


Local Arts Reviews

Reviewed by Rob Curran, October 6, 2000, Arts

Waiting for Godot: Waiting by the Best

Hogg Auditorium,

September 28

On Thursday, September 28, in Hogg Auditorium, the Gate Theatre Company of Dublin, Ireland, premiered a new American tour of Samuel Beckett's signature play, Waiting for Godot. With it, the UT Performing Arts Center succeeded in hosting a definitive production of a major theatrical work. The Gate boast Irish artist Louis le Brocquy's stage design as requested by Beckett, an accomplished Beckett cast, and Beckett buddy Walter D. Asmus in the director's chair.

Beckett built Waiting for Godot on the double act. Every idea and every character in the play bounce off Vladimir and Estragon's dialogue. This dialogue reflects conversation used by inseparable companions. Vladimir and Estragon argue like a married couple, make wordplay like cellmates, interrogate each other like two halves of the same brain.

Johnny Murphy and Barry McGovern, as Estragon and Vladimir, respectively, sizzled for the first half of the first act, then fizzled out in the density of the script. In the finale, they shone again. Murphy, in his eighth production as Estragon, enjoyed stage life as the boisterous half, taking off his boots, demanding food, forgetting everything. The audience bosomed Murphy. McGovern had the tougher assignment; as the straight man, he voiced the futility of living for tomorrow.

Playing Lucky, a surreal slave at the end of a rope, Stephen Brennan made subservience tragic and hilarious. Lucky's breathless tirade in the first act stunned everyone, and Brennan claimed the applause. If Brennan mesmerized, then Alan Stanford as Lucky's master, Pozzo, worked the magic in the background. Stanford, a Shakespearean actor, became a fulcrum for the development of ideas in the play. Stanford made a powerful transformation from cruel master to blind follower. In doing so, he ended the comic theme of life's tedium and introduced the tragic theme of life's rapid changes.

The Gate Theatre production of Godot offered glimpses of gold. As the first leg of the new American tour, Austin had the misfortune to see this troupe at their most jet-lagged. But I'm betting that in subsequent cities Stephen Brennan won't be the only member of the cast to earn the standing ovations.

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