[wzslider info=”true” lightbox=”true”]Starting Oct. 2, the Union University Players will present “Waiting for Godot,” a dark absurdist comedy by Samuel Beckett that has been on director David Burke’s list for years.
“It’s an incredibly difficult play. You keep putting it off and putting it off, ” said Burke, professor of theater and department director. Burke has worked at Union for 29 years and recently compiled a list of ten plays he wants to direct before retirement. “Waiting for Godot” was high on that list, he said.
The critically-acclaimed play, first published in the french language in 1949, centers around two men sitting on a hillside while they wait for a mysterious person called Godot. Burke said some of play’s difficulty comes from the genre, theater of the absurd.
This style of theater developed in the 1950s and 60s out of existential philosophy, Darwinism, Freudianism and Marxism.
“It’s the ‘God is dead’ philosophy,” Burke said. “If there’s no purpose left, everything in life becomes purposeless.”
This approach led to nonsensical plays without clear cause and effect, which poses difficulty for actors, Burke said: “When you’re trying to memorize nonsense, you’ve got nothing to hold onto.”
Burke connected the concept of the play to the feelings of confusion and abandonment even Christians may experience throughout their lives.
“The play asks tons of questions about what life is really about,” he said. “It probably asks more questions than it gives answers, but that’s kind of the nature of theater.”
While Beckett was not a Christian, Burke said he sees “Waiting for Godot” as a picture of what life would be like if Jesus had not resurrected.
“The play grapples with some things Christians may not necessarily want to grapple with,” Burke said. “There are some things that may be on the off-color side, but you know what, life is off-color. Even for Christians, it’s off-color.”
Burke said he hopes “Waiting for Godot” will fulfill Aristotle’s idea of the two-fold purpose of theater: to enlighten and entertain.
Christian Al-Hagal, a freshman theater major who plays the role of Pozzo, said the play will definitely be entertaining. He described it as “a slap-stick comedy routine, kind of like the Three Stooges.”
Pozzo is the most colorful character in the show, reminiscent of a circus master, Al-Hagal said. Pozzo is obsessed with performing, Al-Hagal said, “so everything he does is very, very big.” But the character also suffers from mood swings. “He’ll go from a high moment of ‘Oh, I’m the greatest performer in the world!’ to weeping and losing his mind within a blink of an eye.”
Al-Hagal, who has a background in community theater, said he is accustomed to more understated roles, such as Friedrich in “Sound of Music” or Mr. Tumnus in “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.”
“I’ve played very big characters before, but never anybody quite as schizophrenic and loud as this guy,” he said. “I have to think about [Pozzo] more as a cartoon.”
Nick Fleming, senior Ministry and Missions major, plays the role of Estragon, one of the play’s two central characters.
The role is challenging because Beckett left the characters largely open to interpretation, Fleming said. “You just get what the words of the play tell you and what [Estragon] says about himself … I think he’s a stubborn, weak-minded, just a sad and hurting old man.”
Fleming said Estragon is fun to play because of the physical comedy and because the character is “kind of outlandish … You never know what is coming out of his mouth next.”
“I think if the audience comes in ready and prepared to see something wild that may not make sense to them, they’ll have a really good time,” Fleming said.
“Waiting for Godot” premieres 8:30 pm, Oct. 2 in the W.D. Powell Theater and runs through Oct. 7. Tickets are $3 for students and $7 for general admission. For additional show times visit http://www.uu.edu/theatre/.