Waiting Room

The Black Rep's Waiting for Godot leaves the business of interpretation to the audience.

"Samuel Beckett's Waiting for Godot!" Salomon interjects with a note of relief.

"I'm like a prude about it," he adds. "Ron was telling me those things, and I wasn't saying anything. But if I'm not wearing a bowler, I'm not going out there. If the tree don't look like a tree, I'm home."

"You've got to leave it alone is what it really boils down to," says Joplin. As a director, Joplin is concerned, first and foremost, with telling the story, and leaving the philosophical discussions to the audience. "What Beckett had to say about who Godot was -- his words were 'If I knew who it was I would have put it in the play.' I think that's exactly what you have to think of. All you need to know is there is someone -- it could be something, we don't know -- that makes these men wait for him. And in the waiting they find a reason for their lives. As Didi says, they're waiting for Godot; they're waiting for night to come; they're waiting for waiting. Who Godot is? I don't think we're concerned as much with who Godot is as how these men relate to his possibly coming.

"Beckett does not see this as any place. He does not see the people as any particular nationality. I don't think it ever has to be specified as to where you are. The void is what he's talking about. It's the fact that we do without other people. We exist in the void, and we avoid the void in our relationships with others."

Because Beckett sets his play in a nameless, empty place, even productions that strictly adhere to his stage directions acquire their own specific meanings. Productions in South Africa, for example, bring their own political and social resonances. Writer Susan Sontag directed a production of Godot in Sarajevo with local actors in the midst of the city's siege. In such settings, the realism that Salomon argues is inherent in the play becomes heightened to the point where art and life are nearly indistinguishable.

Himes perceives a particularity of meaning surfacing as a result of this being a Black Rep production. "I think Waiting for Godot is about the human condition. In terms of an African-American experience, part of that definitely has to do with waiting. We've been waiting for a long time for a lot of things in America. We're still waiting for a lot of things in terms of truth and justice and equality. The spirituality of the play and the philosophical conversation about it will certainly impact and speak directly to an African-American audience in a very simplistic way that does not call for having to put something African-American on it. Just doing it and telling the story, which is what we are working diligently at, will chart the ship in a way where people will be able to take the ride with us."

And that ride, according to Salomon, can take audience, and actors, very far: "I'm always aware, every minute, the No. 1 force in this room is Samuel Beckett, because we all embrace the script. It's nice to know that Samuel Beckett is supporting your work.

"It's the play that may most clarify your life. It's the yin and yang of existence: the clarified mind."

The Black Rep performs Waiting for Godot at the Grandel Theatre with previews at 8 p.m. Wednesday-Saturday and 3 p.m. Sunday, April 21-25, and then Thursday-Sunday, April 29-May 16. Call 534-3810 or 534-1111 for reservations.

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