Reworking a theatre classic is not an easy task. The playwright constantly thinks “Will this match up to the original and provide a new relevance?” The author is, in a sense, going toe-to-toe with the greats. One thinks of Stoppard’s ingenious reinvention of Hamlet, Brecht’s Marxist take on The Beggar’s Opera, or even Ionesco’s absurdist revision of Macbeth. Indeed, it is the duty of the playwright, as with any author, to revise and adapt existing works to our ever-changing, postmodern world.
This is something Paula Plum’s New England premiere of Waiting for ‘Waiting for Godot’ does perfectly. Beckett’s absurdist classic is given an inventive spin by playwright Dave Hanson in which the audience is invited into the dressing room of Vladimir and Estragon’s understudies (Gabriel Graetz and Robert Orzali) — two seemingly luckless but ever-hopeful souls who cling to the belief that their big break is just around the corner. They essentially reenact a meta-version of the original, with “him” (the never-present Director) in place of Godot, and a hapless ASM (Lauren Elias) in place of Pozzo/Lucky. In between ill-fitting costumes and a very Ethel Merman rendition of “No Business like Show Business,” the two understudies discuss what it means to be an actor and an artist, even if they’re at the bottom of the pile.
The acting sparkles with wit, and is full of nods to Beckett’s own sense of tragic-comedy. The structure of the play is also similar to the original; in Beckett’s words, “nothing happens twice.” Despite being a take-off on a classic, Waiting For… is a brilliant artwork in its own right. Where the original asks questions about the meaning of human existence, Waiting For… asks questions about the need to act out such things in a play, and, indeed, about the need for theatre and an actor’s place in the world. This is a must-see (at Club Café through July 30), and an important addition to the absurdist canon.