Samuel Beckett struggled as a writer for 20 years before he decided to translate from French into English a sparse drama he had written about two tramps waiting for some superior being to arrive and make everything in life better for them.
"Waiting for Godot" became a smash hit, and fully established Beckett's reputation as a premier European playwright. The play was written in 1948, but its social relevance makes it an enduring stage classic.
The play opens Friday and is part of the University Theatre's new Chamber Repertory Series. It's being staged at Inge Theatre in Murphy Hall on the Kansas University campus. The cast includes Dustin Chase, John Luzar, Daemon Hatfield, Michael Luna and Matt Hislope.
"It's particularly interesting because it's a non-realistic play," director Maggie Baldomir says. "It's both philosophical and concrete. It's like life, in that a lot of little things happen to the characters."
"Godot" tells the story of Vladimir and Estragon, two tramps who spend their time waiting for a mysterious figure Godot to appear and solve all their concerns. The characters are told that Godot has been delayed, so they put off making decisions about their own lives until they can talk to him.
The serio-comic and slightly surrealistic show addresses man's desire for answers to life's problems, and how some people get so caught up depending on others in power to solve all those problems that they don't try to take care of themselves.
There is a famous critical charge leveled at "Godot" that it's a play where nothing happens on stage twice. Baldomir debates that critique.
"The play allows ideas to happen," she says. "These are people who have spent 50 years waiting for something huge to come along and change their lives. They discover they have each other and little things and humorous things to keep them going, and that the big events are not going to happen, and that's okay."
To get viewers into the theme of the work, Baldomir is staging the play "in the round" with the audience surrounding the actors in a circle. This positions audience members almost like another character in the play, suggesting that they are part of the society the play represents.
The director also is using the "Commedia dell'arte" acting style, which allows the actors to play their characters in a broad manner while also involving the audience.
"Many comedic moments are scripted in the play. There are lots of theatrical lines right to the audience. This allows the actors to connect with one another in a situation, and then break and deal with the audience," Baldomir says. "It's just actors on a stage making due with the bare bones of theater, and how they can provoke an audience to respond."