The endless search for Mr. Godot

Two bungling tramps drifted through the Fannin Performance Hall Theater Oct. 14 searching for a mysterious man named Godot. With a sparse set consisting only of a country road, a tree and a mound, they kept the audience spellbound and laughing for close to two hours.

It was all part of the Drama department’s first fall production, “Waiting for Godot,” a tragicomedy by Samuel Beckett. It was directed by Drama Chair Andy Long. The cast was made up of five male Richland drama students.

 Carlos Hernandez in "Waititng for Godot."

 Carlos Hernandez in "Waititng for Godot."

Carter Brown played Estragon, one of the tramps, whom we meet in the first scene as he struggles to pull off his boot. With him was Vladimir, his constant companion, played by Jabin Lewis. Playing tramps who do plenty of roughhousing isn’t easy, but Brown and Lewis really kept the audience on edge with their comical antics, facial expressions and agility in doing quick stunts with ease.

Kudos to costume designer Lyle Huchton for the outstanding sloppy, beige/gray tramp outfits with holes and matching hats, which made it seem easy for them to move around.

One of the key lines is, “We’re waiting for Godot,” first said by Vladimir, as they banter back and forth about when and where they are supposed to meet this mystery man. They’re never quite sure he’s actually coming, and that is the key to the entire play.

Beckett never said who Godot was in the play but Long said he believes the character represents God.

Long said, “‘Godot’ has at its core a central theme and that is: Mankind is waiting for God. While mankind waits, mankind plays games.  Some of those games are fun; some of those games are cruel. Every so often, a messenger comes and says, ‘Godot’ will come soon. Just keep waiting. Mankind keeps playing games.”

In addition to Brown and Lewis, two other distinguished characters made this play a huge success. Shae Hardwick played Pozzo the master and Carlos Hernandez, his slave, Lucky. Both made grand entrances on the country road.

Hardwick, playing the loud-mouthed master dressed in a black suit, white shirt and red hat, walked with a whip, an attitude, and a really long rope attached to the neck of Hernandez who pranced in front of him like a proud horse. Hernandez, lit up the stage with his pitch black hair and bright orange outfit in complete contrast to the other characters. It was hard to take your eyes off him.

In one scene, Hardwick, with a strong, deep, low voice shouted, “Up, pig” to Lucky, making it clear he was in charge.  As Pozzo demanded a folding stool, Lucky responded by prancing over to him with the stool then prancing back to stand at attention silently until the next order. It was just hilarious.

As “Godot” came to an end, one other character, The Boy, played by Will Frederick, appeared surprisingly out of a mound to deliver a message from Godot, for whom he works. It is:  “Mr. Godot told me to tell you he won’t come this evening, but surely tomorrow.”    

This production of “Godot,” often described as a tragicomedy, kept the audience in awe at the amazing talent of the actors.  Long said his goal was to challenge the acting students and saw ‘Godot’ as “the most difficult play on the Richland stage” since being hired seven years ago. Whether theatergoers viewed the play as having religious overtones or more as a comedy, there’s no doubt that it was a great evening of entertainment.

“Godot” is entered in the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival. The cast will travel to San Angelo State University Oct. 25-29 to compete.