Theatre ReviewsTom Williams

Waiting for Godot

By Samuel Beckettwaiting for godot

Directed by Jimmy McDermott

At Redtwist Theatre

Veteran cast give depth to Beckett’s classic

Redtwist Theatre continues to utilize many of the finest directors in town. The have enlisted Jimmy McDermott to mount Samuel Beckett’s absurdist classic, Waiting for Godot. Casting older character actors such as Mike Nowak (Vladimir) and Bob Wilson (Estragon) indeed made for a terrific production. Godot is a difficult show to get right and McDermott understands that the little details can make all the difference. From McDermott’s bleak black box set to Joelle Bernek’s bum-like costumes, Redtwist’s production is both engaging and artful. They got all the little things right.

Mike Nowak & Bob Wilson
Mike Nowak & Bob Wilson

Samuel Beckett’s (1906-1989) Waiting for Godot is considered a seminal masterwork of 20th Century theatre moving the stage out of naturalism and into the existentialist world of the absurd. Godot features two tramps, Estragon (Bob Wilson) and Vladimir (Mike Nowak) who spend their days next to a tree waiting for Godot. They are trapped into a world filled with nothingness where waiting and killing time become their daily ritual. This is a ‘buddy’ play that is full of comic moments as the two bums invent games, routines and stunts to render their enemy, time, defeated. Such is the life many of us have.


Mike Nowak and Bob Wilson exude a stage chemistry seldom seen on stage that is both empathetic and believable. Both demonstrate their polished talent as they smartly perform the clever vaudevillian routines making each movement, each gesture genuine and hilarious. Wilson’s Estragon sets up Nowak’s Vladimir marvelously. They were channeling the Marx Brothers or Laural and Hardy. The demands of their roles were excruciating yet they deliver every bit, every routine with nuanced charm and subtle humor. They played off each nicely. It is so refreshing to see two skilled actors so intensely ‘into’ their characters.

Noah Simon as authoritarian bully, Pozzo was obnoxiously wonderful in his domination of his slave, Lucky, played with tight control and amazing consistency by Andrew Jessop. When the four interlock, some wonderful business emerges. Pozzo and Lucky offer a stark look into relationship modes.

Yes, Godot is an intense and provocative work about  companionship, dependency and the practice of patience and the unswerving power of hope. Beckett presents the dreary side of life here. Beckett and the fiver players deftly present a look at the pointlessness of man’s existence as the tramps’ daily goal is to pass the time waiting for a salvation that never comes. The pronouncement “Nothing to be done” says it all.

Redtwist’s four main characters give depth to the observation that “nothing happens in Godot” is irony in its purest form. So much happens that nothing seems to happen—that is the art that Nowak and Wilson embody on stage. This is an “actor’s show” that ultimately is all about what is being done in front of us. Nowak and Wilson give a clinic on character acting—they were tremendous!

Come see a most worthy and artful production of Beckett’s classic. Respect for the material wins. Kudos to McDermott, Wilson and Nowak for such a fine show!

Highly Recommended

Tom Williams

At Redtwist Theatre, 1044 W. Bryn Mawr, Chicago, IL, Call 773-728-7529, tickets $22 -$27- $30, Thursday thru Saturday at 8 pm, Sunday at 3 pm, running time is 2 hours, 20 minutes with intermission, through August 23, 2009

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