“Waiting for Godot” Shines With Ian McKellan, Patrick Stewart Bromance
Waiting for Godot is the kind of play that lends itself to infinite interpretations. Samuel Beckett created a masterpiece full of ambiguity, allowing actors and directors to put their own unique stamp on the material. Director Sean Mathias’ rendition, starring Ian McKellan and Patrick Stewart, running through March 30th at the Cort Theater, is sublime. In a reversal of their characters’ personalities in Harold Pinter’s No Man’s Land, (showing concurrently at the Cort) McKellan plays the sullen introvert Estragon and Stewart takes on the role of an impulsive, extroverted Vladimir.
Review: Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart in Harold Pinter’s No Man’s Land
Given Waiting for Godot’s dark themes, it’s surprising that two seasoned actors appear to be having so much fun. Their impish and sprightly exploits will almost cause you to forget that you’re supposed to be experiencing a sense of futility. As New York Times theater critic Ben Brantley notes, the slapstick humor sometimes threatens to eclipse the play’s more serious elements. Yet even at its most witty, the underlying darkness is still present, conveyed by Beckett’s writing and the actors’ nuanced performances. Whether this existential loneliness and desperation are buried too deep is a matter of personal taste. But you can rest assured that regardless of your preference, you will be laughing.
Quibbling over tone feels petty when the overall experience is so wonderful. McKellen and Stewart are magnetic, their natural sense of camaraderie evident from their first lines. Billy Crudup and Shuler Hensley also deliver excellent supporting performances as clownish, slave-driving control freak Pozzo and his seemingly brain-dead slave, Lucky. The fact that they can share the stage with McKellen and Stewart is a testament to their skill as actors.
Waiting for Godot only runs through Sunday, but if you have a bit of spare time and some cash to spend, it’s something truly special that you won’t want to miss.