Waiting for Godot | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

Waiting for Godot 

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Splinter Group, at the Theatre Building.

Now in its fourth edition, Splinter Group's "Buckets o' Beckett" fest has finally worked its way to the big one, the 1953 masterpiece in which, as an Irish critic put it, "nothing happens, twice." Surprising us with his left-handed compassion in Waiting for Godot, Beckett gives us two tramps who confront an existential void with noisy desperation and battered dignity, boasting "We have kept our appointment!" Clearly God(ot) doesn't deserve their patience.

Matt O'Brien's sober, unvaudevillian staging misses the music-hall humor in Vladimir and Estragon's pungent punch lines; earnestly self-effacing, Chet Grissom as Estragon falls flat in a winsome role that requires the comic grace of a Chaplin and the timing of--well, Bert Lahr. But redeeming the sobriety, this Godot uncovers a terrible isolation in beleaguered Vladimir, who, lacking the anesthetic of Estragon's amnesia, verges on insanity. O'Brien plays him with a despair and a mounting fear of abandonment that, as in everything else Beckett wrote, sinks into silence.

As Pozzo, the self-pitying monster who exploits the piteous slave Lucky, Fred Wellisch underplays the effulgent pomposity. But in the second act he cleanly suggests the man's crushed capitulation to blindness and forgetfulness. Mark Mysliwiec's doomed Lucky is a crazed automaton, transforming his disjointed soliloquy to a stammering stroke; because this Lucky is even more incoherent than he's been written, he's the victim of a separateness that makes everyone else seem connected by comparison.

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