After watching “Waiting for Waiting for Godot,” now in its West Coast premiere at Sacred Fools, one will easily deduce that playwright Dave Hanson has worked as an actor — and that’s even before reading his program bio.
His play, a witty hommage to Beckett’s classic, is a raw and revealing glimpse into the actor’s existential dilemma, the helplessness that derives from being an interpreter, forever reliant on any number of random factors before plying one’s chosen craft.
For Ester (Bruno Oliver) and Val (Joe Hernandez-Kolski), understudies in a performance of “Waiting for Godot,” it seems that opportunity will never come. Languishing in their shabby backstage dressing room, neatly evoked in Aaron Francis’ claustrophobically cluttered scenic design, the two hopefuls swap dreams of fame and greatness while waiting for their ever-elusive director to arrive on the scene and make their lives comprehensible and worthy at last.
The action opens on an belabored routine as burly Ester struggles to don a vest several sizes too small for him. Fortunately, director Jacob Sidney eventually tightens Hanson’s sprawling mélange into a compactly rendered vehicle that careens, amusingly, between vaudevillian slapstick and metaphysical absurdism.
Antithetical physical types, Oliver and Hernandez-Kolski are well matched when it comes to sheer comic deftness. Both prove capable of handling the demands of their roles, from thoughtful monologues to straight burlesque. (Later in the play, a sterling bit revolving around that aforementioned vest could have come straight out of an old Laurel and Hardy one-reeler.)
Marian Gonzalez (appropriately, the understudy for regular cast member Julie Marchiano), neatly rounds out the cast as an assistant stage manager who happens by and neatly punctures Ester’s self-importance, setting the stage for Val’s defection into the wider world — in this case, the theater’s lobby, which is out of bounds to these backstage denizens.
Hanson’s play is a tribute to Beckett, but above all else it’s an acid-etched valentine to actors, those intrepid aspirants who forgo an easy path for the strenuous and oft thankless service of art.
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