With “nothing to be done” the USF College Players took to the stage in the Kalmanovitz Amphitheatre on Sept. 18 and 19 before an audience of dozens of USF students. The production persisted despite the thick blanket of fog that fell over the theatre and the slight cold that chilled its audience, who cozied up beneath blankets provided free of charge by the College Players staff.
Despite having only three weeks to prepare and rehearse for the production, director Quin Herron managed to make sense of the play that the New York Times has called “a mystery wrapped in an enigma.” The fog-laden sky and sparse stage of the Kalmanovitz Amphitheatre were a perfect setting for Beckett’s seminal masterpiece, which premiered in French in 1953 and whose later English translation has been revered as one of the most significant plays of the 20th century. The floor of the amphitheatre was set only with a small and leafless tree, which within the script of the play is the only definitive landmark to indicate where Vladmir and Estragon must meet the absent Godot. Actors Daniel Steven Sherman and Dylan Wittrock moved about the floor with particular ease, using the space well to liven the often irrational dialogue. The hopelessness and desperation felt by Vladimir and Estragon were accurately elevated by the strength of Sherman and Wittrock’s individual performances as their characters attempted to ignore the pointlessness of their task by discussing the conditions of repentance, suicide, The Gospels, and their personal weaknesses.
However, despite the skilled performance of each of the play’s actors, Sherman and Wittrock’s interactions lacked on-stage chemistry. The foolish camaraderie of Vladmir and Estragon was deficient in affability and their exaggerated gestures of humor intended to further the elements of the absurd inherent to the script of the play at times revealed a minor incongruence between the central actors. This shortcoming was no doubt due to the limited rehearsal time allowed for the performance and did not hinder the execution of the director’s intentions.
The characters of Pozzo and Lucky, on the other hand, were portrayed without a hint of artificiality. The experience of senior Players James Godbolt and Isaac Samuelson showed in their dynamic interaction and flawless understanding of the script, as they brought the production to life with their unique interpretation of the strange and disturbing relationship between master and slave.
Small details of costume and chemistry would have lifted this play to more impressive proportions. However, despite these limitations, the production was ultimately successful. Unlike Vladmir and Estragon, who “in this immense confusion” hold on only to the idea that they are “waiting for Godot to come,” the audience was easily distracted from the characters’ original purpose, as they focused, instead, on the various absurdities that the individuals confronted directly in their dialogue and bazaar exchanges. That Godot does not arrive is inconsequential, for in his absence we begin to understand the futility of waiting as an act in itself.
As Sherman urged the play’s audience, “Life is too short to wait for things to happen.” Luckily, USF students will not have to wait long to enjoy the College Players’ next installment in their fall 2009 program. On Oct. 23 College Players will further their exploration of the fantastic and the absurd with their screening of “Rocky Horror Picture Show” inside the warm and inviting Presentation Theatre, so you can leave your blankets at home.