"A country road. A tree. Evening." So go the opening stage directions of Samuel Beckett's Waiting for Godot, one of the most important plays of the 20th century. But if the set description seems minimal, Tides Theatre's interpretation of them is anything but.
"It's almost like you can see the tree pulsating, because the way set designer Richard Colman has painted it has so much energy," says director Jennifer Welch. It'll be a fuchsia tree against a black-and-white background, together with an angular, industrial soundscape, by Jon Bernson -- an unusual stamp on Beckett's existential "tragicomedy" and a bold beginning for a new theater company.
Welch founded Tides with Cary Cronholm Rose and Ann Hopkins, and the three chose to inaugurate the company with Godot because of the challenge it poses.
"Almost everyone has read the play, and then when they see it, it doesn't live up to their imagination," says Welch. "I wanted to do a production that would live up to mine."
This production, which stars Keith Burkland Jack Halton as Vladimir and Estragon, will be staged at the Royce Gallery -- at least, at first. It will also tour local Veterans Administration hospitals as part of Tides' mission to use theater to heal. For Welch, "this play is about what happens next, which is what soldiers who return from Iraq and Afghanistan deal with." Godot isn't about the war; it's about "what happens after the war."
As for where Tides goes from here, Welch does not intend to limit the company to classics. She hints only that some Bay Area premieres may well be in their future. At the moment? "I'm reading so many scripts," she says.
Waiting for Godot begins Friday, Jan. 20, and continues through Feb. 18 at the Royce Gallery, 2901 Mariposa (at Harrison), S.F. Admission is $20-$32. For more information visit the Tides Theatre website.