Lee Wochner: Writer. Director. Writing instructor. Thinker about things.


Waiting again for Godot

I’m seeing Waiting for Godot tonight at the Mark Taper Forum.

Just recently, I was telling the playwrights in my workshop that I would not being seeing this, given how many productions I’ve seen of this play. Just off the top of my head, here are some of them:

  • a college production in 198x starring my friend Joe Stafford. (Still probably the best Pozzo I’ve seen. Joe had a commanding and imperious presence, leavened by an impish humor.)
  • the filmed version with Burgess Meredith and Zero Mostel
  • as much of the staged version with Robin Williams and Steve Martin as I was able to stand
  • a production in… was it 1989? At the Taper, Too. (Now known as [Inside] the Ford.)
  • a production at the Matrix starring Robin Gammell and David Dukes. They were superb. Dukes may have been the best Vladimir I’ve seen — you really felt his pain when Godot didn’t show up, and his desperate desire for the man to make an appearance, for God’s sake
  • a production by the Dublin Gate Theatre in 2006 at UCLA Live that, despite its acclaim, I didn’t like at all because it was so meaningful.  “Godot” is much better when played as vaudeville; Robin Gammell (above) was an excellent clown. The play is intended to be played that way — one stage direction has a character “scratching his head like Stan Laurel.” When it’s filled with portent, it’s a drag. And that’s what this production was like.

I’m sure I’m leaving out four other productions. Minimum.

And yet, I’m going again. Why? Top-notch cast, including Alan Mandell (who is now 84 and unlikely to be doing this sort of thing much longer; sorry, Alan), and featuring two actors who knew and worked with Beckett himself (Alan, and Barry McGovern); a video clip (above) from the production that, just in this excerpt, shows that the approach is right; it’s one of the most important plays of the 20th century and one I find deeply effecting; and, well, my friend Dorinne had an extra ticket and invited me.

Wish me luck.

6 Responses to “Waiting again for Godot”

  1. Joe Says:

    For the record, that was 1989, the year G.H.W.Bush began his single term presidency. Capped by not knowing what the fuck a supermarket scanner was, or the price of a gallon of milk. But don’t get me started. Godot was a turning point in my life, my Polaroid Spectra photos of that play are a prized possession. You just reminded me exactly where they are, and that they need to be scanned into my Apple TimeCapsule.

  2. Dan Says:

    Not many pople know this, but I actually originated the role of Godot on Broadway, and critics compared it favorably to my HARVEY.

  3. Lee Wochner Says:

    Actually, Joe, it couldn’t have been 1989 — I saw you in that show in New Jersey, and I moved to California in 1988. It was 1986 at the latest. Please share those photos — for some of us, you remain the definitive Pozzo.

  4. Joe Says:

    My dramaturg for that performance gave me so many ideas for that character, that I cannot take all the credit. I also need to thank Fred Gwynne, who gave me some great ideas along the way. One of the few times in my life where too much television paid off, was watching him as Herman on The Munsters. I laughed and laughed.

  5. Joe Says:

    …and another thing…I’m jealouser than heck…

  6. UNCLE RICH Says:

    Joe was also great in A FUNNY THING HAPPENED ON THE WAY TO THE FORUM at Stockton College. He channeled Jack Benny and got a big laugh.

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