Directing the play where nothing happens … twiceIt’s a role reversal for the ages: Reviewer becomes reviewee. At the helm of Rubber Chicken’s production of “Waiting for Godot” is none other than Duluth News Tribune theater critic Lawrance Bernabo.
It’s a role reversal for the ages: Reviewer becomes reviewee. At the helm of Rubber Chicken’s production of Samuel Beckett’s “Waiting for Godot” is none other than Duluth News Tribune theater critic Lawrance Bernabo.
“I was looking for something to direct,” he told the Budgeteer this week. “I did a lot of one-acts when I was teaching drama at Marshall, but I haven’t done anything giant like this in some time. I was interested in doing something because I saw just about everything last year — I think I ended up missing only two shows.”
But before all you spurned actors hit the blogosphere for your chance to exact revenge, you’ve already been beaten to the punch.
“This could be the biggest disaster in the history of the world or something,” said the performing arts aficionado matter-of-factly, casually mentioning that he hasn’t directed a full-length play in 30 years. “I hope it won’t be.”
These aren’t precautionary first strikes, however; that’s just who Bernabo is.
“There’s nothing anybody’s going to be able to say in print that’s going to be harsher than what I’m going to think,” admitted the director and actor (Bernabo is taking on the role of Estragon). “No matter how good or how bad it is, I’m going to be sitting there afterward thinking, OK, here’s 500 things that went wrong … 500 things to fix.
“I usually take the worst position before anybody else can.”
More than just possessing a critical eye for the way things ought to be, Bernabo shares his knowledge of the performing arts with upcoming generations. At that aforementioned Marshall School gig, “Godot” would often be presented alongside Albert Camus’ “The Stranger” and Luigi Pirandello’s “Six Characters in Search of an Author” when he would discuss the absurd.
“[Students] usually liked the existential stuff because it’s weird,” said Bernabo, who now instructs at the University of Minnesota Duluth. “In the post-modern world, however, it isn’t as strange to do something as weird as this. So they see it as being derivative of a lot of things they’re already familiar with. They don’t see ‘Godot’ as the root of all that.”
With or without all of the play’s headier achievements, Bernabo genuinely just likes it. (It was he who approached Brian Matuszak about Rubber Chicken staging it.)
“I think it’s hysterical,” he said. “Then again, I have a strange sense of humor.”
Bernabo pressed on, explaining that the genius of “Godot” is its dry wit.
“I always say it’s the world’s longest vaudeville routine, because it’s all about comic timing,” he said. “There are pauses and silences all over the place … and this whole thing about how characters will say one thing and do something else immediately. The big thing is they’re always saying ‘I’m going’ but they never go anywhere.”
Without giving too much away, Beckett’s legendary tragicomedy has been described as “the play where nothing happens … twice.”
“People always talk about it being like ‘Seinfeld,’ because they’re both about nothing,” Bernabo said. “And I kind of get that, but I don’t totally buy into it. It reminds me more of ‘Family Guy,’ where suddenly stuff comes from left field.”
As such, Bernabo and his “Godot” cast, fellow Rubber Chicken regulars whom he’s worked with before, like to mess around with the play’s formula during rehearsals. (They’ve even done read-throughs in different accents just to see if they could pull it off.)
“Every night we come up with something new, so I’ll be curious to see what happens after two weeks,” the director said. “I mean, we could do this for a year and still not really have a feeling of how it really should be done.
“But that’s what makes it fun.”
NEWS TO USE
Samuel Beckett’s “Waiting for Godot” will be staged by Rubber Chicken Theater at 7:30 p.m. Jan. 7-9, 14-16 at the Play Ground. Cost is $10.
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