Newton residents finally had the opportunity to once again enjoy the thrill of live theatre with the Newton Nomadic Theater’s innovative production. The company returned to in-person performances, appropriately, with its live version of Samuel Beckett’s tragicomedy, Waiting for Godot.
The abridged version of the play was an hour-long event that took place outdoors, secluded from the public, in the back of the Durant-Kenrick House and Grounds.
Waiting for Godot involves two characters, Vladimir (Noni Lewis) and Estragon (Linda Goetz) waiting together for the appearance of a character named Mr. Godot.
The stage set-up was intentionally simple, involving only two chairs placed between a single, leafless tree, all on ground level with the audience. Speakers were located on the wings of the performance area, allowing for clear sound.
About 40 chairs were filled with socially distanced spectators, and all attendees were required to wear masks.
“Doing Waiting for Godot to start with felt like the right thing to do, it felt like the right play for the right time and it was a play that not only spoke to the times, but could be done in these times because it can be done outside,” said Nicole Galland, the director.
The central themes of the play, such as the act of waiting and the inability to leave, resonant with what many may have felt over the past year. Throughout the play, Vladimir and Estragon repeatedly debated and attempted to leave the tree where they arranged to meet Mr. Godot. They were never able to commit to the idea, resulting in them being trapped anticipating Mr. Godot’s arrival.
This situation may be familiar to many and resemble something similar to quarantine or isolation, where people were forced to stay in place with no idea as to when life would return to normal.
“There were things that I knew going into it would resonate, but also a lot of it was just kind of the mood and the repetitive energy,” Galland said. “There are so many people shut up with their families talking about how all they want to do is get away from their families, but thank god they’ve got their families because who else is there? And that’s what these two are. They’re family to each other.”
The audience could be heard expressing their excitement and appreciation for finally being able to attend a live performance.
The producer, Jerry Reilly, agrees with Galland that the show has a familiar feeling.
“Everything about this Waiting for Godot seems to echo everything in the last six months,” Reilly said. “We are all just kind of living through one day, the same as the next, and nobody really knows when it’s going to end.”
The actors, as well as the audience, enjoyed the return to live theatre. In order to abide by social distancing guidelines, rehearsals had to be held outside when the weather permitted. Galland was stuck in quarantine in Ireland during the rehearsals. She turned to Zoom to hold conferences with her actors.
“It felt good because I haven’t actually done live theater since Christmas,” actor Tommy North said.
The company had debated if holding a live performance could be done safely.
“Well, the very first difficulty was, is this the right thing to do?” asked Goetz, who plays Estragon. “Is it safe for everyone involved, audience and actors? Do we even, even under CDC guidelines that we’re following and everything being above board, is it right to have people come out and see something?”
The company also considered if people would be interested in attending a live event during this time.
“Would anyone come, you know? Because obviously people are worried and we didn’t know. It was a gamble, but it paid off, the play sold-out,” Lewis, who plays Vladimir, said.
The company provided a humorous play with an underlying serious, relatable message. The actors had chemistry, which allowed the story to be naturally carried out, despite the story having only three characters.
The Newton Nomadic Theater produced not only a terrific play, but also succeeded in giving people a sense of normalcy.
Featured Image Courtesy of the Newton Nomadic Theater