Review: Waiting for Godot

On Saturday, I was fortunate enough to see Waiting for Godot with Ian McKellan and Patrick Stewart. The play is one of my favorites; I’ve seen it three times now. The two actors are really monumental and it is always a pleasure to see them act. I loved watching Ian McKellan and Patrick Stewart play off each other; it was extraordinary.
Sadly, it was a situation where the whole was not greater than the parts. Both were splendid but I don’t think that they were best suited for the role. I think the actors need to be less confident, shlubby actually. Three years ago, I saw the same play with Nathan Lane and John Goodman and that was perfect. John Goodman blew me away. The performance was probably in my top three ever. This current production just didn’t work for me. I think Patrick Stewart is just too dignified or confident for his part. But I got to see them dance together.
Anyway, I digress. I want to return to a favorite topic of this blog: hats. Hats were a feature in the show. The most notable moment is when Lucky needs his hat to think. When his hat is placed on his head, Lucky thinks nonstop for several minutes until they can remove the hat from his head. Literally his thinking hat. Why the hat? One possible interpretation is that one has to be properly dressed (or to a degree properly dressed) to do something as respectable (well, sometimes) as thinking. It’s a great comment on the artifice of society; a hat is needed to think, Lucky needs to be ordered to think by his master to entertain two strange men…
The hat was used as a tool of comedy. There is great humor in adding and then removing Lucky’s hat. Another scene also shows the characters trying on each other’s hats over and over. The hat is simply a brilliant tool of comedy. It’s small and mobile enough that a hat can be passed around, worn by other characters easily. Hats can be removed easily. Other pieces of clothing don’t do the job well: shoes aren’t easy to take off and there are two of them. Shirts and pants can be obscene and/or difficult to take off. Scarves could be shared but it could be threatening depending on how you play it.
Anyway, that’s my thoughts on hats and Godot.

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