The Austin Chronicle

We are Waiting for Sockot

By Robert Faires, December 31, 1999, Features

"They give birth astride a grave, the light gleams an instant, then it's night once more."

Boy, nothing puts the whole New Year's 2K hoo-hah in perspective like a few words from good ol' Sam Beckett, huh? The irascible Irishman (who spent most of his life in Paris, for all the good it did him) knew that where and how one rings out the Old Year and rings in the New doesn't matter a fig in the Big Scheme of Things, even when the New Year has three zeroes in it. I mean, what the hell difference does it make that you're marking this landmark Flip of the Calendar all by your lonesome while billions of humans across the globe celebrate in great communal throngs? Each and every one of us is eventually going to be checking in for that extended stay in the Motel 6 Feet Under, and it's not like folks can brag about their party-hearty high jinks during the Long Dirt Nap.

That said, why not spend the last night of 1999 getting in touch with your inner existentialist? What better way to say goodbye to the century that turned nihilism into a fashion statement than with the dramatic masterpiece that got us all gulping black coffee and chattering morosely over the meaninglessness of our existence: Beckett's own Waiting for Godot. Why, if not for Godot, we might still be laboring under the pathetic delusion that we're doing something with our lives, that we have even the possibility of making a difference. Thank heaven ­ or rather oblivion ­ that now we're freed from all those tiresome notions of achievement and contributing to society and can kick back content in the knowledge that any effort we expend is but a futile gesture in the face of the vast abyss that swallows us all.

So, since we're doing nothing more than marking time until our inevitable return to the void, our suggestion for you this New Year's Eve is to stage your own mini-revival of this ode to bleakness. Oh, don't worry about the fact that you're alone; sure, it might be nicer to have another person to read with, but then this play isn't really about nice, is it? And besides, doesn't the fact that you have no one else to perform this with you ­ or to listen to you perform it ­ reinforce that sense that we come into this world alone and must take our leave of it the same way, that each of us is ultimately our own island in an infinite sea of emptiness? Absolutely! So don't fret over your isolation; just drop a stocking over each hand and voila! Vladimir and Estragon! Prop your elbows on a bare table and you have Beckett's lovable tramps on the desolate landscape from which they find themselves unable to move. (Purists may wish to add a sickly potted plant or upturned broom to the scene for the single tree the author prescribes.)

Now, you're all ready to launch into Beckett's metaphysical vaudeville routine. You may feel a trifle awkward at first, but believe me, nothing says "the absurdity of existence" quite like sock puppets debating philosophy. And once you've surrendered yourself to the inanity of it all, you might find yourself discovering more and more of the comedy in the play. Yes, the sock-puppet approach is not merely a worthwhile time-killer on a cheerless New Year's Eve but a conceptually valid approach to Waiting for Godot, albeit one the author would have probably taken legal action against if he'd lived to hear about it. (For a guy who was forever going on about the pointlessness of it all, he was such a fussbudget about how his plays were presented!) Since he's pushing up petunias now, however, I guess it's just like Did and Gogo said: Nothing to be done.

ESTRAGON: Let's go.

VLADIMIR: We can't.

ESTRAGON: Why not?

VLADIMIR: We're waiting for Godot.

Other suggestions for home theatre:

The Sock Monkey Macbeth

The GI Joe and Barbie A Streetcar Named Desire

The Mr. Potato Head Oedipus Rex

The Raggedy Ann Hedda Gabler

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