Friday, May 01, 2009

I Can't Go On. I'll Go On.

Last night, I was lucky enough to be at the opening night of the excellent new Roundabout Theatre production of Waiting for Godot. Ben Brantley's Times review says everything I could have said about it, though I found it more poignant than he did. It is, after all, and among many other things, a study of two bickering, entirely co-dependent couples.

It sent me back to the text, which my often brilliant current ex-husband once produced with a cast of lifers at San Quentin (audience members had to sign a waiver that the prison could take no responsibility for their safety), for this exchange, bemusing yet entirely clear:

VLADIMIR: I missed you . . . and at the same time I was happy. Isn't that a strange thing?
ESTRAGON: (shocked). Happy?
VLADIMIR: Perhaps it's not quite the right word.
ESTRAGON: And now?
VLADIMIR: Now? . . . (Joyous.) There you are again . . . (Indifferent.) There we are again. . . (Gloomy.) There I am again.
ESTRAGON: You see, you feel worse when I'm with you. I feel better alone too.
VLADIMIR: (vexed). Then why do you always come crawling back?
ESTRAGON: I don't know.

And this, a few lines later:
VLADIMIR: Ah no, Gogo, the truth is there are things that escape you that don't escape me, you must feel it yourself.
ESTRAGON: I tell you I wasn't doing anything.
VLADIMIR: Perhaps you weren't. But it's the way of doing it that counts, the way of doing it, if you want to go on living.
ESTRAGON: I wasn't doing anything.
VLADIMIR: You must be happy too, deep down, if you only knew it.
ESTRAGON: Happy about what?
VLADIMIR: To be back with me again.
ESTRAGON: Would you say so?
VLADIMIR: Say you are, even if it's not true.
ESTRAGON: What am I to say?
VLADIMIR: Say, I am happy.
ESTRAGON: I am happy.
VLADIMIR: We are happy.
ESTRAGON: We are happy. (Silence.) What do we do now, now that we are happy?

(Photo of, from left, Nathan Lane, John Goodman and Bill Irwin from a Times slideshow about productions of Godot through the years. The Times also has a fine essay by Charles Isherwood on that topic.)

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