Waiting for Godot at the Abreact

Arts / Article

Two friends separately cautioned me against seeing Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot, which is playing at the Abreact Performance Space in Corktown until May 7. “You know nothing happens,” one said. “For more than two hours.” Truth be told, when we got to the theater, located in the Lafayette Lofts, I was a little nervous. In a space as notably intimate as the Abreact (it seats about 40 and is literally inside the home of the production’s codirectors), there would be nowhere to hide from a boring play (or a bad production). But it turned out that I had nothing to fear; the almost 60-year old Godot, with its dazzling wordplay and pointed insights, is consistently beguiling. And the Abreact’s production is outstanding: compelling throughout, frequently hilarious, and designed and acted with precision, intelligence and verve.

The truth is that much happens over the course of the play’s two acts. Vladimir (a restless, calculating Stephen Blackwell) and Estragon (David Schoen, sympathetic and mournful) do a lot of waiting, of course, but they also bicker, sing, philosophize, theorize, remember, dream, forget and consider suicide. They encounter the pompous Pazzo (an unforgettable Dave Davies), his slave Lucky (Lance Allen, who’s truly astonishing) and a young representative of the absent Godot (a sly, watchful Sarah Galloway).

I suppose when people say that Godot is a play in which nothing happens, they mean there’s not much to the plot, and that’s true. The characters, about whom we ultimately know little, mostly exist in a state of animated suspension. I can see how a bad production, or even a distanced one, might lose an audience. But in these gifted actors’ hands, and after what husband and wife directors Adam Barnowski and Andrea Smith described as an uncharacteristically long reading and rehearsal period (it shows), this Godot is immediate and warm, and it doesn’t lag for a moment.

Take this opportunity to see a landmark of 20th century theater brought to life by skilled, passionate local artists in a singular space. Beckett and his contemporary Detroit interpreters encourage the audience (with words, words and more wonderful words) to consider so much that matters:  our freedom, our enslavement, our compulsion to speak, our tendency to forget and our constant need, as Estragon puts it, to “find something to give us the impression we exist.” Waiting for Godot is playing on Friday and Saturday nights at 8:00 in the Abreact Performance Space until May 7. The Abreact is located in the Lafayette Lofts at 1301 W Lafayette, #113; (313) 378-5404; www.theabreact.com/. Admission is free, but donations are encouraged. For reservations, email [email protected]