A 'WAITING' THAT'S WORTH IT.
There it is again, that big, fake-looking moon, sweeping into position at the back of the Matrix Theatre like a spotlight restlessly scanning the skies for some AWOL celestial performer.
We've arrived at the final moments of Samuel Beckett's ``Waiting for Godot'' and, of course, Vladimir and Estragon are still desperately awaiting a salvation that they know, deep in their hearts, will never, ever come.
For the better part of three hours, these two shabby vaudevillians (David Dukes and Robin Gammell) have done their best to amuse and provoke us, as well as distract each other, with their existential pratfalls and cosmic non sequiturs.
But what's a pair of beaten-down, washed-up actors to do once they realize there's no one really in charge of this dreary passion play we call Life? Get a new agent?
Among the many pluses of the Matrix's whip-smart, handsomely acted new production of Beckett's modern masterpiece is its clever way of reminding us that ``Godot'' is, at one level, a play about plays. Or, rather, it's a play about acting as a metaphor for existence.
Beckett's tramps - homeless showmen in search of a kinder, gentler audience - inhabit a post-apocalyptic universe of baffling portents and symbols that refuse to yield up their significance. It's a universe as coldly mechanistic and patently false as that ludicrously swift-rising moon.
Recognizing this, director Andrew J. Robinson and company have built their crisply paced production around the idea that you may as well have as much fun as possible while awaiting the inevitable final blackout.
Consequently, I can't recall seeing a funnier ``Godot'' than last Friday's opening-night performance, or one better balanced among its five actors (who alternate with another cast), right down to Will Rothhaar as the towheaded, enigmatic boy who reports that Mr. Godot, yet again, won't be coming.
Dukes' patrician, fastidious Vladimir and Gammell's suspicious, irascible Estragon are perfectly (mis)matched bookends, Felix Unger and Oscar Madison boiled down to their Platonic DNA. Their body language is often sublime (this production has a knack for physical comedy), and their beleaguered mutual tenderness, when it rears its misshapen head, is truly touching.
Dukes and Gammell generate more than sufficient critical mass to sustain the production until they're joined by the detonating combination of the dapper, lordly Pozzo (Tony Amendola) and his hapless slave Lucky (J.D. Cullum), forever roped together. The ferret-eyed Amendola has a cruelly mellifluous voice and manner, like a circus ringmaster, lending credence to Pozzo's assertion that ``I am perhaps not particularly human.''
Slobbering and squinting through his long white hair, Cullum finds an exquisite cadence for Lucky's absurdist monologue. As he collapses like a prophet stricken with philosophical Tourette's syndrome, lightning designer J. Kent Inasy bathes the stage in a chiaroscuro glow suitable for a Renaissance treatment of Christ's removal from the cross.
Where Robinson's production now and then falls short in poetic beauty, it compensates with comic finesse and - dare we say it? - a hopeful conviction about ``Godot's'' place in the 21st-century repertory. Racing back and forth across Victoria Profitt's set, an undulating desert waste that runs the length of the stage, these heroic tramps are trapped in a play with no exits and, blessedly, no end of rebirthings.
--What: ``Waiting for Godot.''
--Where: Matrix Theatre, 7657 Melrose Ave., Los Angeles.
--When: Performances at 8 p.m. Tuesdays through Thursdays, 3 and 7 p.m. Sundays; through April 30.
--Tickets: $20. Call (323) 852-1445.
--Our rating: Three and one half stars.
Photo: Robin Gammell, left, and David Dukes co-star in a Samuel Beckett production of ``Waiting for Godot,'' now at the Matrix.
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|Title Annotation:||L.A. Life|
|Publication:||Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)|
|Article Type:||Theater Review|
|Date:||Feb 29, 2000|
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