Friday, September 23, 2016

"Waiting for Waiting for Godot" by Loudmouth Collective at Open Eye Figure Theatre

Waiting for Waiting for Godot is definitely the lightest and funniest show Loudmouth Collective has done in their five seasons. And friends, it's really funny. Playwright Dave Hanson has written a clever, smart, and silly companion play to Beckett's classic absurdist play Waiting for Godot, in which two understudies are waiting backstage for their moment in the spotlight. Much like the original (which I've seen but am not super familiar with, having only seen it once at the Jungle a few years agoWaiting for Waiting for Godot is kind of just two idiots blathering about nothing. But in doing so the play touches on the nature of acting and waiting and being. It's another great choice for Loudmouth. As much as I love their dark and intense side, what a treat it is to watch them be fun and playful, while still putting on a sharp and all-around high-quality production with a dream team of cast and creative. In short - go see it! And soon, because it's only around through next weekend, after which you'll just be waiting for Loudmouth's next show in the spring

The entire play takes place in the back room of a theater during a performance of Waiting for Godot. While I'm not a theater person, I'm pretty sure that understudies do not sit backstage in full costume during every show. But no matter, it's a great premise that sets up a situation ripe for much clever commentary on theater, acting, and this particular play (there are occasional bits of dialogue from Waiting for Godot and a few repeated lines - "Nothing to be done" - but a familiarity with that play is certainly not necessary for enjoyment of this play). The young and naive actor (Gabriel Murphy) is waiting for his first big break, his supportive Aunt Mary attending every performance in the hopes he might go on. The experienced veteran actor (Sam Landman) imparts much advice on his co-understudy (be in the moment, repeat what the other person says, only give some of yourself so the other person has to work harder), but he's really just as clueless. Their hilarious and ridiculous banter is interrupted occasionally by the ASM (Sulia Rose Altenberg), aka the assistant stage manager, aka the person backstage who makes sure the show runs smoothly and has no time for the understudies' antics.

Gabriel Murphy, Sam Landman, and Sulia Rose Altenberg
(photo by Justin D. Gallo Photography)
There's really not much more to the plot than that, but that's OK, because this cast truly is a joy to watch. Sam Landman and Gabriel Murphy are a fantastic comedy team, reminiscent of Abbott and Costello, or Jackie Gleason and Art Carney. Their comedic timing is perfect (even in the preview that I attended, so it's only going to get better and funnier), they play up the contrasting experience and innocence of the characters,and the physical comedy is fearlessly performed. It's fun to see Sulia (a talented young up-and-coming actor - keep your eye out for her) play the straight man, the sensible one keeping these two yahoos in line. They say comedy is hard, and I have no doubt a lot of work went into making this play look so effortlessly smooth in its complicated verbal and physical choreography. Kudos to director Matt Sciple for guiding his cast through that (notably, the first time a Loudmouth show was not directed by Artistic Director Natalie Novacek).

Loudmouth typically performs at Open Eye Theatre, a space well-suited to their small-in-size (but not in value) shows. Scenic and props designer Meagan Kedrowski has filled the shabby room under Open Eye's tiny arch with various accouterments of the theater, from a rack of colorful costumes, to books, to a bust of... someone. They make nice use of the theater as house lights are occasionally raised in a sort of fourth-wall breaking (don't worry, the show is not interactive!). I only wish there weren't an intermission; it's totally unnecessary with the 90 minute run-time of the show (#intermissionpolice).

If you've not previously heard of Loudmouth Collective, you can be forgiven. They typically do just two shows a year, with short runs, so they can easily slip under the radar. But I'm here to tell you, you should be aware of them, and you should make every effort to see their work. Waiting for Waiting for Godot is one of the funniest plays I've seen this year, a flawlessly executed production of a clever and absurd play based on another clever and absurd play. It officially opens tonight and closes after just eight performances, so don't wait!

This article also appears on Broadway World Minneapolis.