"Waiting for Godot,” Samuel Beckett’s existential classic, is held in such high regard by highbrows that average theatergoers may feel intimidated by the play, as though a pop quiz might be awaiting them after the curtain call.
But don’t let the passion of professorial types deter your visit to the Mark Taper Forum, which has mounted a marvelous revival of the work starring two esteemed Beckett interpreters, Los Angeles’ own Alan Mandell as Estragon and Ireland’s celebrated son Barry McGovern as Vladimir.
Under the incisive direction of Michael Arabian, the play is treated not as a symbolist pageant or a philosophical gag machine but as an encounter with two tattered souls whose plot is the master plot of our lives: filling up the time that has been bafflingly granted to us during our stints on planet Earth.
This isn’t the funniest “Godot” I’ve seen, but it’s definitely the most tenderly affecting. Mandell at 84 is as spry as a man half his age, but his pratfalls are those of someone with too much experience to pretend that bruises don’t hurt and beatings are a laugh riot. His comedy echoes down a corridor of years. McGovern, whose musical Irish voice could soothe the rankled hearts of terrorists, has the stern straight-man shtick down pat, but his eyes glisten with empathy even as Vladimir’s patience frays.