WAITING FOR GODOT by Samuel Beckett, directed by Albert Schultz, with William Hutt, Jordan Pettle, Oliver Dennis, Joseph Ziegler and Henry Ziegler. Presented by Soulpepper at the Premiere Dance Theatre (207 Queens Quay West). Runs to July 1 and also August 20-September 24, various days, Monday-Saturday 8 pm, matinees Wednesday and Saturday 2 pm. $30-$49, stu $25, some rush. 416-973-4000. Rating: NNNN Rating: NNNN
You can't make magic with Samuel Beckett 's modern classic Waiting For Godot unless the relationship between vaudeville tramps Vladimir and Estragon is special. In the hands of William Hutt and Jordan Pettle , we're treated to a potent chemistry that's ultimately golden.
Set in a bleak landscape and with action that's largely cyclical from one act to the next, Godot is a tricky show that should blend comedy and pathos - even despair - in equal measure. Director Albert Schultz gets the balance right, playing much of the first act for its humour and then tipping us toward darkness in the second.
I've never seen the piece done with the two central figures so different in age and size. Pettle's querulous Estragon is an edgy child, a fed-up teen rebelling against his circumstances. Hutt's measured Vladimir is a calm parent who tries to impart his wisdom and patience while dealing with his own unreliable bladder. Estragon wants to leave but can't; Vladimir reminds him of their need to wait for the mysterious Godot.
They sort out problems with shoes and hats, talk philosophically and explore any way they can think of to pass the time, by asking questions, shakily remembering the past, contradicting or insulting each other or dealing with passersby Pozzo and his servant Lucky.
Joseph Ziegler gives some warmth to the snobbish, fascistic Pozzo, while Oliver Dennis , wheezing before he speaks, turns Lucky's bravura speech into a seemingly well-reasoned monologue.
But it's Pettle and Hutt who hold our attention, whether they're fighting or holding onto each other in what is sometimes father/son comfort, sometimes shared desperation. The quicksilver Pettle has the shorter fuse, always threatening to quit his partner but never accomplishing that goal. Hutt, the slower of the pair, is often the optimistic conciliator, but also someone who fearfully refuses to hear his partner's nightmares.
Despite his generally placid nature, Vladimir sometimes confronts the yawning existential chasm at his feet. It's here that Hutt shows his brilliance, using awesome technique and an occasional Learlike touch to reveal a man whose tricks of external distraction can't hide his primordial fear.