Datebook: Still 'Waiting' After All These Years | WGLT

Datebook: Still 'Waiting' After All These Years

Jan 31, 2020

For 67 years, Vladimir and Estragon have been waiting. And waiting. And waiting ... for Godot. 

Heartland Theatre in Normal presents Samuel Beckett’s oft-performed Absurdist masterpiece, “Waiting for Godot,” opening Feb. 6 and running through Feb. 22. The plot concerns a pair of vagrants waiting on a deserted road for the arrival of a man names Godot. In that wait, they engage in absurdist conversations, weaving through topics ranging from the mundane to the profound. And through it all, the characters, as well as the audience, are left to wonder: What is the meaning of it all? 

Directed by Eric Thibodeaux-Thompson, the tragicomedy features winding wordplay that dazzles as it questions. Thibodeaux-Thompson said the audience can ask what’s it all about, but they shouldn’t concern themselves with what they think is an absolutely correct interpretation. 

“This play will land on different people differently. And all of it is worthwhile. All of it has value.” 

“Sometimes I think we get into the weeds when we think there’s one silver bullet meaning to this play and if you can find that you’ve cracked it. It’s a play that really defies that. It’s a play that’s not interested in giving you the answer, but rather it’s inviting you into a meditation where a number of things may wash over you as you watch the play.” 

The existential reputation of “Waiting for Godot” gives it the patina of a serious drama. But Thibodeaux-Thompson said there’s a balance of comedy in the production. 

“In any fine production of any piece of Theater of the Absurd, “Waiting for Godot” included, two waves are going to wash over the audience members. And humor is usually to first wave. We’ll have some cathartic, good laugh, because it is funny in many moments.” 

Then, as the laughing subsides, there comes a moment of truth, a haunting realization, said Thibodeaux-Thompson.  

“It’s something along the lines of, ‘Wow, this isn’t funny at all.’ In fact, it’s a cold, harsh reminder of other aspects of living, what it means to be alive in this world. Life is not easy, and Beckett knows that. And he really knows that when he starts to write this play in the late 40s, right after WWII. So, it’s no coincidence that existentialism is born in France, and absurdism right afterwards. The worldview for many is much darker after World War II.”

Regardless of how those waves wash over the audience, Thibodeaux-Thompson hopes they allow the meditative experience of watching “Waiting for Godot” to have its own value. 

“Sometimes we’ll have a nice meditation of some kind and we don’t necessarily have a ‘Eureka’ moment. Part of the playwright’s point is we have to let go of absolute answers on occasion and we have to embrace the meaning that comes alongside uncertainty.” 

“Waiting for Godot” opens Feb. 6 and runs through Feb. 22 at Heartland Theatre in Normal.

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