Nobody comes and nobody goes — it’s no real surprise. Yet, the Classical Theater of Harlem’s production of Samuel Beckett’s absurdist classic Waiting for Godot is eternally relevant, visually arresting and a delight. Even better, they’ve managed to take the old, often infuriating concept (two tramps wait... for nothing) and keep it fresh, thanks to the vibrant cast and the dramatic change of setting.
Before the performance, a fellow theatergoer asked if she ought to sit in the front row. Entirely in bitchy jest, I suggested she avoid it lest she get “hit by the waterworks.” When the curtain rose, I was stunned to discover that in this Waiting for Godot, Vladimir and Estragon do not wait — and wait — for Godot on a country road; instead, they do their existentializing, bone grubbing and suicide plotting perched on the roof of a ravaged shack that is almost entirely submerged in water. While I was strangely (and eerily) prescient of the production’s aquatic element, I did not, however, anticipate how effective this evocation of a flood-ravaged landscape would be when paired with the director’s choice to reinforce Godot’s slapstick potential. The ecstatic splashing lends extra layers of insanity and unexpected pathos to the script, as in Lucky’s nosedive into the drink as an end to his blistering “thinking.” It can’t be easy to act the hell out of Beckett while soaking wet, yet this cast does a remarkable job. It’s such a treat when indeterminable boredom gets this entertaining.