Waiting for Godot at Theatre for a New Audience

Arin Arbus Directs Brilliantly

By: - Nov 15, 2023

Theatre for a New Audience (TFANA) and Park Avenue Armory are the two New York venues you can count on to deliver. Arin Arbus’ new take on Waiting for Godot is no exception. At the Polonsky Shakespeare Center in Brooklyn, you have your first aha moment when you enter the theater. Two yellow lines stretch across a long, catwalk shaped stage. They are a road’s central lines, dividing traffic going in two directions.

Of course, Estragon,  Pozzo and Lucky dance randomly over the yellow lines as the play progresses.  Vladimir does not. He carefully keeps from stepping on them, although he moves in both directions.  Only in a moment of crisis toward the end of the play does he forget the untouchable mission.  

Touch is a central concept in this production. The delicate hand of the director, the rope grasped by Pozzo, the dance of Lucky holding only himself as partner, and the frequent mutual grasps of Vladimir and Estragon delight.

The road stretches from what we assume is the past at one end into a void, which is the future. Only the sound of Lucky’s chains dropping, or perhaps a modified whip in action, indicate that there is life in the void. Vladimir and Estragon go into the void too. Yet they came back. They are waiting for a clue or a sign which never comes, even though the world in which they live has life. That single leaf that’s grown during intermission is a welcome reminder that all is not lost. 

Repetition is important in the play.  But instead of the repetition that was beginning to be composed in music, which repeats in tone and quality, there is infinite variety as these characters speak. In the beginning Vladimir and Estragon echo each other's words, as though they were one person.  In fact, Vladirmir, sometimes called Didi or Mr. Albert, and Estragon, Gogo, are close friends.  Arbus cast Paul Sparks and Michael Shannon because they are close friends off stage.  She thought it would enhance performance and it does.

Arbus has directed to bring out the humor.  We hear the musicality so characteristic of Beckett’s language – short phrases, pauses, and intricate rhythms abound.  Bill Irwin assisted and the physical performances of all the characters reflect this.  

Ajay Naidu as Pozzo is particularly infected by movement that engages. His arms dart out unexpectedly and his hands often splay. He is tipped onto the floor and in one dramatic moment, kicks and kicks back.

This production of Waiting for Godot at TFANA is a must see.  Tickets here.