Get SF Weekly Newsletters
Pin It

Waiting for Godot 

Subterranean Shakespeare production

Wednesday, Jan 10 2001
What makes Samuel Beckett's masterpiece more than just a great example of absurdist theater is the compassion Beckett exhibits toward his two hapless protagonists. Waiting for Godot weds standard theatrical forms such as vaudeville and burlesque to a worldview that would be unbearably bleak if not for the empathy with which Beckett (and we) look upon Estragon and Vladimir. Subterranean Shakespeare and director Yoni Barkan understand both the comedy and the sorrow in this play, but they don't always succeed in modulating the two. As Estragon, Greg Lucey is a master stylist, clearly accomplished in mime, clowning, and vaudeville. After diving to the ground for the used chicken bone that Pozzo (Karen Goldstein) tosses there, he sits on a nearby stone, legs neatly crossed, and daintily nibbles it, as though he were in a Wilde play. When offering a stool to Pozzo, Lucey chivalrously dusts the seat with his hat. He uses Chaplin-esque postures and nails his line readings, varying his tone from puzzlement to despair to outrage, and he almost always gets a laugh. Stanley Spenger, who plays Vladimir (he's also the artistic director for Sub Shakes), is a very different type of actor than Lucey -- he exudes a calmer, more natural energy, and he isn't always comfortable when a more stylized technique is required. Sometimes he's too placid, but he nevertheless approaches the role intelligently, and his first-act-ending plea to Godot's boy (Jeff Meanza) -- "You did see us, didn't you?" -- is heartbreaking. Goldstein's inflections are somewhat repetitive in the first act, but when she reappears later, blinded and wretched, she brings a moving depth to the role. And as Lucky, George Frangides uses his wonderful, Droopy Dog face and his hunched posture, bent nearly double, to convey the picture of abject misery. Frangides' Lucky is a monument to suffering -- it's easy to see why Vladimir and Estragon are so fascinated by him. (Frangides' one monologue could be crisper, though.) The set consists of a Dali-esque painting (by Irina Mikhalevich) hung askew and a wonderful tree constructed out of copper-painted PVC pipe fittings (by Barkan). The pipes reach clear to the ceiling, acknowledging La Val's cellar setting in a smart, humorous way. Barkan lets the pace drag here and there, but this is a worthy, often moving production. Subterranean Shakespeare admirably serves Beckett's tale of the capacity for hope and love in a world that appears to allow neither.

About The Author

Joe Mader


Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Popular Stories

  1. Most Popular Stories
  2. Stories You Missed


  • clipping at Brava Theater Sept. 11
    Sub Pop recording artists 'clipping.' brought their brand of noise-driven experimental hip hop to the closing night of 2016's San Francisco Electronic Music Fest this past Sunday. The packed Brava Theater hosted an initially seated crowd that ended the night jumping and dancing against the front of the stage. The trio performed a set focused on their recently released Sci-Fi Horror concept album, 'Splendor & Misery', then delved into their dancier and more aggressive back catalogue, and recent single 'Wriggle'. Opening performances included local experimental electronic duo 'Tujurikkuja' and computer music artist 'Madalyn Merkey.'"