Modernized `Waiting for Godot’ lingers with audience members

Two tramps who sit on a mound of dirt on a roadside simply waiting does not sound like a compelling concept for a play. But in Samuel Beckett’s dramatic modern play “Waiting for Godot,” waiting is anything but boring.

The Studio Theatre’s “Waiting for Godot” brings the 1940s drama into the modern world. This 50th Anniversary revival of the play features the great talent of Thomas W. Jones II as the tramp Vladimir and Donald Griffin as Vladimir’s lifelong sidekick, Estragon.

Director Joy Zinoman brilliantly delivers the play into the ’90s with the addition of modern elements. Her complex, fast-paced stage blocking adds an upbeat, often comical tone to this otherwise dark play. With hats thrown into the audience and sing-a-longs throughout, it is often easy to forget the monotonous waiting that is constantly present.

The semi-circular seating of the Studio Theatre produces an especially intimate atmosphere and relationship between the actors and audience. During one of the play’s many highlights, Lucky, the dimwitted slave of the tyrant Pozzo, thinks aloud. His outburst of continuous, nonsensical preaching continues for five minutes while Vladimir and Estragon frantically run about the theater making contact with audience members.

The minimal set and simple lighting give the play a surreal feel. A single stark tree grows behind the mound of dirt in the center of the stage. The only scenery change during the play is the growth of a leaf on one of the bare tree branches. The leaf serves as a symbol of birth amid all the signs of death.

Although the audience is constantly reminded of the passing of time and the waiting for death, humor does emerge. It is impossible not to burst into uncontrollable laughter when Vladimir and Estragon perform numerous dance moves and impersonations. Even with the play’s comic relief, the constant waiting creeps underneath the skin of audience members and lingers, imprinting the message of “Waiting for Godot” in audience members’ minds.

“Waiting for Godot” continues at The Studio Theatre through Oct. 4. Performances are Wednesday through Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m., and Sunday 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Ticket prices range from $19.50-$36.50.

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