VALLEJO — Usually when writing a review of a local theatrical production, I do my best not to divulge any specific plot points so as not to ruin it for theatergoers who may go and experience a particular work for the first time. That will not be a problem discussing Bay Area Stage’s current production, Samuel Beckett’s 1953 absurdist play “Waiting for Godot.”
It has been called a play about nothing, but much like “Seinfeld” that was called a TV show about nothing, “Waiting for Godot” is about . . . well . . . something. It is just hard to describe. Which ultimately is kind of the point.
I absolutely enjoy watching theatrical performances at the Vallejo Naval and Historical Museum. I first thought it was kind of an odd place to see a show, until I went there to see Bay Area Stages’s “The Pirates of Penzanace” last year. That show worked well there as the nautical atmosphere added ambiance, and for the current play, which calls for an extremely minimalist set, it is perfect.
I was all set to go review this show when it originally was supposed to run in April, but they unfortunately had an actor drop out at the last minute. So was it worth the wait?
I would say a hesitant yes. The reason I hesitate is because this is the kind of play that divides people into Team Hate It or Team Love It. Perhaps that is not accurate in my case because actually what I loved about it was the fact that Bay Area Stage took it on, but more about that later. You have to wait.
So basically, “Waiting for Godot” is about two guys waiting for some other guy named Godot and what happens or rather, what doesn’t happen, while they wait. While I had heard of the show, I was a first-timer and there were parts that had me scratching my head, parts that had me laughing out loud and parts that made me think and ponder what I had seen several days later.
Director Clinton Vidal, whose acting I have enjoyed in a number of Benicia Old Town Theatre Group shows, molded the five members of the cast into a cohesive whole.
Kenn Stevens as Estragon and Chuck Schilling as Vladimir played off of each other quite nicely. The challenges to an actor of pulling off such an unusual play where not much happens are enormous.
Jeff Lowe was delightfully wicked/weird as the explosive Pozzo. Lowe added yet another character to the list of ones I have been blessed to see him bring to life under the spotlights, including Ebenezer Scrooge, Sweeney Todd and Miguel de Cervantes/Don Quixote.
James Adams as Lucky had probably the most difficult part to play – going from basically a beast of burden to yammering gibberish when given his thinking hat – and he proved himself equal to the challenge.
Travis Ross rounded out the cast as “boy.” His future in theater appears bright as he was engaging, real and in the moment.
“Waiting for Godot” has been debated and discussed for 60 years and within its absurdist framework, weighty topics like religion, suffering and humanitarianism are explored all while challenging/changing accepted norms of theater itself.
As I mentioned earlier, the thing that I absolutely love about the show (thank you for waiting) is that Bay Area Stage took on the challenge of such a difficult piece. Everyone knows that if you want to run a successful theater company in this economy, you absolutely have to do the crowd-pleasers and Bay Area Stage excels at that.
But the 5-year-old company has also successfully tackled weighty shows in the past that include “Buried Child,” “True West” and “Kiss of the Spider Woman.” I hope they continue to dig deeper and keep audiences not only entertained, but thinking.
Reach Fairfield writer Tony Wade at firstname.lastname@example.org.