Humanity exists in a state of desolation. There are many religious and political messages that Samuel Beckett's classic tragicomedy Waiting for Godot explores, but all of them lead back to a doleful part of the human condition. Seattle Shakespeare Company's season opening production of the play at ACT Theatre (which is part of the Seattle Beckett Festival) manages to suck the audience into its grim world by hitting on all the harrowing notes.
The play finds Vladimir (Todd Jefferson Moore) and Estragon (Darragh Kennan) endlessly waiting for a man named Godot in an isolated wasteland. The rationale for waiting is never explained, but that's not the point. Beckett's play isn't about purpose, it's about the nothingness; the banter that thinly masks the existential agony of the pair's isolation.
Moore plays Vladamir with the smallest ever-present spark of hope, which makes his moments of unfulfillment all the more emotionally smothering. Kennan taps into Estragon's constant discomfort and wallowing, while still maintaining his status as the dimmer half of the duo. While Chris Enweiler goes a bit playing the slave-owning passerby Pozzo with carnival barker gaucheness, the subtlety of the main duo keeps the show's tone in check. Seattle Shakespeare's production stays true to Beckett's text and the sense of isolation feels palpable via the cleverly sparse stage design.
While it has its moments of dour humor, the tragedy certainly outweights the comedy in Waiting for Godot. Bleakness pervades through the hopelessness of waiting for something that won't arrive and the empty loneliness that can exist even with a partner to suffer by your side. If there is a joke to Waiting for Godot, that joke certainly is on us.
Waiting for Godot
Thru Sept 21, ACT Theatre, $29–$43