for Godot in Yiddish (Vartn Af Godot)
by Julia Polinsky
So, nu? You never secretly suspected that, all
along, Godot was really a comedy about a couple of confused, irritated alte kockers who have zero idea
what’s going on? Well, you could have, because the New Yiddish Rep’s Waiting for Godot in Yiddish makes that
Godot has long been an intellectual playground.
Thousands of pages, scores of books, dissertations by
the dozen have been written about Godot,
its philosophical and religious implications, its darkness, its humor, its
contrasts. Yet it’s still likely that you’ll wonder just what the hell that was
all about, after watching the play.
It’s hard to love Godot. Even in Beckett’s English version, there’s just too much of
nothing happening. What does happen makes no sense – kind of like life. The
story, such as it is, involves some waiting, and some kind of dominance thing,
and some kind of belief thing, and some despair, some dependence, some cruelty,
some kindness: also like life.
and Eli Rosen
Vladimir (Eli Rosen) and Estragon (David
Mandelbaum), who call each other Didi and Gogo, have a world-class approach/avoidance relationship.
They wait by the road, near a tree, in the middle of nowhere, for a man named
Godot, whom they’ve never met, and who may not come. Or may have already come,
and they forgot, and there’s nothing to be done.
At one point, the annoyingly superior Pozzo (Gera Sandler)
and his hapless servant/captive Lucky (Richard Saudek)
come by; some incomprehensible things happen. They exit. A Boy (Noam
Sandler/Myron Tregubov) arrives as messenger from
Godot, and says he’ll surely come tomorrow. Everything seems like it could
easily have happened before, so Didi and Gogo decide to leave, with the stage direction They do not move. Blackout; end of Act 1.
And then it, or something a lot like it, happens again in Act Two. There’s still nothing to be done.
Relentless nihilism; talk of death, suicide,
nothingness; Pozzo’s cruelty, Estragon’s weakness, or
Whatever. Despite the gloomy philosophical bent of the play, it turns out that
translating Godot into Yiddish, and
directing the two principal roles as a couple of annoying old Jewish guys who
don’t listen to each other, can’t remember anything, don’t know what’s going
on: well, it just works.
If your Yiddish is limited to “oy,” then the
English supertitles will give you Beckett’s original text, so you won’t really
miss anything (read fast, though; those titles don’t stick around long). It’s
not the text, in English or Yiddish, that makes this
production work. It’s the feel of the characters. In fact, if you just watch
the actors, and let the show wash over you, you’ll get a lot out of it.
Richard Saudek, and Eli Rosen
In some ways, this is the most likable Waiting for Godot imaginable. Director Ronit Muszkatblit lets her messy,
frumpy characters kvetch like a couple of old farts sitting on a park bench
after the umpteenth doctor’s appointment of the week. George Xenos’s terrific set -- that’s the best Godot Tree ever --
and costumes evoke pity and fear, the classic emotions of tragedy. This Godot, however, gets a bit of brightness
from the actors’ body language. The physicality of their performances infuse Didi and Gogo with life, and the
Yiddish is almost secondary.
Face it: lots of people find Godot incomprehensible even in English. If Waiting for Godot is your kind of theater, though, then go see this
version. It may lack the starpower of the recent
Broadway run, but the intimacy of the
Y theater, the
perfectly bleak set, and the excellent performances make for a very good Godot.
Waiting For Godot in Yiddish (Vartn Af Godot)
Written by Samuel Beckett
Yiddish Translation by Shane
Directed by Ronit Muszkatblit
December 24 – January 27, 2019; Monday - Saturday at 7:30 PM
Sundays at 2:00 P.M. and 7:30 PM
The Theater At The
Y, 344 E. 14th
*Schedule Exceptions: There will be NO performances on Mon, Jan 7 thru Fri, Jan 11; Wed, Jan 16 thru Fri, Jan 18; Wed,
Jan 23 thru Fri, Jan 25.