Waiting on Godot
Reviewed by Robert Faires, Fri., Nov. 19, 2004
Waiting on GodotHyde Park Theatre, through Nov. 20
Running time: 45 min
Nature has set many creatures in natural opposition, locked in an eternal, mythic combat: dogs and cats, sheep and wolves, snakes and mongooses. But in all the animal kingdom no pair is more at odds, more fiercely at war, than diners and waiters. That's made clear in this theatrical effort by playwright (and Chronicle listings editor) Wayne Alan Brenner, who provides dispatches from the front of their conflict, courtesy of a few battle-weary waiters straight from their latest shifts. Here, three of them sit together at a bar, nursing their beers and swapping stories like grizzled old soldiers reliving past campaigns. They compare scars from various skirmishes: with the incomplete party, the indecisive diner, the one you know has already decided but who makes you recite all the daily specials anyway, and arrgghh! the lousy tipper. In time, they're joined by a fourth, who in a previous scene the show's "appetizer," Brenner calls it reeled off some similar war stories at home just before his significant other pitched him out on his ear for sleeping around on her. Their romantic conflict is served up as a subplot, but it plays more like a distraction from the true fight, the one being waged in the cafes, restaurants, and diners of the city. We've seen that breakup scene a thousand times, but how often have we heard those smiling folks who sidle up to our tables, cordially introduce themselves, and obligingly take our orders tell us what they truly think of us? It's refreshing and funny, even when in the tales told the customer is always wrong and the waiters explain why in withering detail. Brenner's years in the trenches of the food service wars give the script the ring of truth, and only a veteran waiter would come up with the Butt/Lip Ratio, the idea that every interaction is about kissing ass and it's just a matter of the kisser figuring out how much lip must be applied to the keister in question to get what he wants. If you live by tips, well, ...
The production is as shoestring an affair as they come, even by local garage theatre standards. The set is slapdash, the lighting basic, and the costumes right out of the cast's closets. But there's that tasty script, which is served up by an engaging cast, including the playwright at his grousing, misanthropic best, Greg Gondek quite appealing as the voice of reason and unrequited love, and Chronicle staffers James Renovitch as the most put-upon and patient of waiters and Amy LeGrand as the evening's winsome, winning host. It's a little like one of those dives where you forgive the decor for the delights of the meal.
Of course, that's not to suggest that Waiting on Godot is anything like a full meal. It's more like the drinks before dinner, something to loosen you up before you sit down at the table and give the waiter your order. And if you've had a shot of this before you do that, chances are you'll look at that waiter with different, perhaps more respectful eyes.