By Shannon McClain, Guest Writer
The absurdist play “Waiting for Godot,” written by Samuel Beckett, graced Pacific Lutheran University’s Studio Theater last Friday and Saturday in the Karen Hille Phillips Center for the Performing Arts.
It allows each viewer to have their own interpretation, based on understanding and experience.
Because of this, people constantly asked Beckett to share the authorial intent, but the only clues he gave about the work were cryptic.
He continuously remarked, “Why people have to complicate a thing so simple I can’t make out.” Eventually, Beckett was pressed to admit, “It’s all symbiosis. It’s symbiosis.”
Junior Joshua Parmenter, the director of PLU’s version of the play, described symbiosis in the Director’s Notes as “a close and prolonged association between organisms that is, at times, mutually beneficial and in other situations parasitic.”
While reading Beckett’s work, Parmenter said he came to believe that, “[Beckett] wanted to emphasize a person’s search for meaning through a parasitic world. We endure suffering being lost, our existence, interactions, relationships and journey through life poisoning us.”
The plays’ two main characters, Vladimir and Estragon, complement each other. Vladimir, portrayed by first-year Jacob McCallister, is characterized by his restless resilience, musing on religion or philosophy.
Estragon, performed by sophomore Cameron Waters, has the opposite characteristics with his inert forgetfulness and concern with his physical comfort.
Junior Mitchell Helton acted the part of Lucky, a tired, faithful servant. Senior Cori DeVerse played Lucky’s counterpart, Pozzo, a domineering, talkative personality.
In most versions, Pozzo is a male character, but in PLU’s version, this dominant character is played by a woman. This adds a feminist twist to the otherwise all-male cast, particularly because of the in-control and esteemed character she plays.
Anthony Aguilar played the character Boy, the only link between the characters and the mysterious Godot.
Originally written and performed in French, the title “Waiting for Godot” is Beckett’s own translation from the French title “En attendant Godot.”
In 1953, the play premiered in Paris at the Theatre de Babylone. The British Royal National Theatre poll of 800 playwrights, actors, directors and journalists voted in 1999 that “Waiting for Godot” was “the most significant play of the 20th century.”
During the play, characters Vladimir and Estragon wait for a character named Godot to appear. They wait endlessly, but he never comes.
Godot’s missing presence, along with other aspects of the play, is the reason for the many different interpretations.
The setting is traditionally minimal. In PLU’s version, a tree and a rock — both simply crafted from metal — comprise the set.
This stripped-down set allows the viewer to draw a variety of conclusions about the play, ranging from a religious, philosophical or classical perspective to a political, psychoanalytical or social one.
For me, the set demonstrates the existentialist current that runs through the play. We are able to imagine that this encompasses any or all of human life, because of the plain set.
To further this existential element, the mirroring of the events and words of the first and second act invoke the existential questions of life and human existence, such as “What are we doing on earth? What is the purpose of our life here?”
Vladimir feels that something is familiar about everything. He tries to reconcile the events of the second act with the events of the first, but no one else seems to remember or notice the repetition.
In addition, neither Vladimir nor Estragon can remember how long they have been waiting for Godot, and this leads Vladimir to question if it has been days, months or perhaps years.
The play is set up to show the mundane repetition of life, but it also seems to offer relationships as a way to get through this existence.
At several points in the play, the characters say it would be better if they separated, and at the end of each act they mention leaving, yet they don’t actually move to go anywhere.
Vladimir and Estragon are stuck together in this existence, waiting for someone who never comes. They must rely on each other, just like Lucky and Pozzo.
By the end of the play, Lucky is mute and Pozzo is blind. They now physically need each other to function in the world as much as they emotionally did before.
We rely on others to help us through the bad times and celebrate the good times and to get through this world, we need each other — that is the message of the play.