By Elizabeth Nolan - Gulf Islands
Driftwood Published: February 11, 2009 10:00 AM
Performing any piece of live theatre has it risks, but to stage a performance of a celebrated play requires courage and precision.
To put on Waiting for Godot, a tragicomedy in two acts well known as a 20th-century classic, therefore took some serious guts for director/actor Scott Hylands, who could have been putting his reputation on the line with his combination of a local cast and this script of much renown.
Many months of rehearsal and careful attention have made Hylandsﾒ production a rendition to be proud of, as he and his cast prove why Beckettﾒs words have such lasting impact. The preparation is evident in the seamless delivery of the dialogue, the believability of the characters and the depth of the relationship between the two leads.
In addition to directing, Hylands plays Vladimir, one of two friends who are old, tired and down on their luck. Facing memory loss, sleeping outside and managing to live off a few root vegetables, the men had seen better days long ago. On a bare stage lit by a dying sun and only a dead tree to relieve the scene, Vladimir and Estragonﾒs weariness at their interminable waiting is palpable.
As the play begins, Vladimir and Estragon (played by Patrick Cassidy) enact a routine of interdependence that they both sometimes dislike, but wouldnﾒt know how to end.
As the title suggests, they spend the entire evening of two days waiting for someone called Mr. Godot to come see them and somehow relieve their situation. He fails to appear, and it seems theyﾒve both been waiting forever and will continue to do so.
Their time of waiting is broken up by the entrance of another pair, the rich man Pozzo and his slave. Played by Bob Twaites and Harry Warner respectively, Pozzo and Lucky show an even more strange interdependence. Lucky has been completely broken by his years of servitude, while Pozzo appears young and healthy despite being older than 70. But what makes Lucky even more despondent is the fact that Pozzo is about to sell him off.
In the role most closely aligned with Beckett, Hylands reveals his craft as an actor with a lifetime of experience in professional roles. The pain that fills his character both in body and mind are embodied in Hylandsﾒ physicality. Vladimir (in his mid 60s) suffers from kidney trouble and laughing makes him bend sharply at the crotch with pain. Every time Hylands did it, I felt the reality of that pain.
Hylands is also skilled at pulling off the many comedic elements of Beckettﾒs script, with the ability to slide out a dry remark just at the right moment.
Cassidy is well matched as Hylandsﾒ counterpart. As Estragon he blinks out at the world with a sleepy bewilderment, enhancing his characterﾒs descent into dementia. In Act I Estragon appears the more merry of the two, but at the end of the act we learn that heﾒs also the more desperate and has attempted suicide many times. Cassidy is entirely convincing in both emotional directions and in his movement between the two.
The part of Pozzo is played admirably by Bob Twaites, a veteran of the theatre who usually chooses not to act himself. Itﾒs actually difficult to imagine him in any other role, so strongly has he entered into the part of the bombastic Pozzo. He also turns quickly between emotional states, shouting ﾓPig!ﾔ at his slave one moment and carrying on civilized conversation the next. (On Saturday night, Twaitesﾒ voice sounded like it might be under some strain due to the shouting, but he did not hesitate to roar out his commands).
A really inspired choice of casting came with Harry Warner, who has some experience in the theatre but has not appeared on stage in his 19 years on Salt Spring. With just two lines, most of Warnerﾒs task as Lucky is to stand around looking miserable, which he does very well.
But in the performance of his second and final line, a thousand-word monologue made up of nonsense, he truly shines. Warner spills out the words with the convincing air of a crazy man on the street, once educated and articulate but now with a mind broken into fragments. The words donﾒt make sense, but in his deliverance you feel you can almost find the meaning behind them.
Stagecoach student Christopher Perrins makes his theatrical debut as Godotﾒs servant and does a fine job sharing the stage with the other more experienced actors. It will be interesting to watch where his path will lead in the next few years.
With all the weight of the playﾒs reputation, Hylands and the other actors have crafted a staging of Beckett that is worthy of being an introduction to the play for new audiences and stands among the most enjoyable interpretations for those who know it.
Waiting for Godot returns to ArtSpring for two more shows only, Saturday, Feb. 14 at 8 p.m. and Sunday, Feb. 15 at 2:30.