Holly Natwora is directing Brüka Theatre’s production of Waiting for Godot. The play by absurdist writer Samuel Beckett tells the story of two characters, Vladimir and Estragon (known as Didi and Gogo) who are waiting for the mysterious Godot, a character who sends word he will show, but never does.
The characters deal with themes of uncertainty, dread, purpose, and death, interspersed with bits of slapstick comedy. This often leads fans to question if Waiting for Godot is a comedy or a tragedy. Natwora believes it to be a tragic comedy, but wants to emphasize the comedic elements. “Otherwise it’s like, you just want to stab yourself in the heart,” she joked.
Natwora has never directed a comedy before. She’s relying on the actors to help make it work. “Tonight and tomorrow I have to spend both rehearsals working the bits, making sure that they’re clean and fast and funny,” she said.
Beckett refused to talk about the meaning of Waiting for Godot, leaving the interpretation to the audience. Natwora believes the play is ultimately about empathy. People go through life and find comfort in the routine as a distraction from death.
“There’s a lot that really doesn’t mean anything at the end of the day,” Natwora said. “The only thing that really means anything is whether or not you helped another human being … when they needed it, without any desire or expectation of something in return. And if you can do that, that transcends all of the other things that you go through in life.”
This also makes it “the perfect pandemic play,” she said. It was initially scheduled to open in April 2020. Sixteen months later, it seems to Natwora that this 68-year-old classic hits home as hard as ever.
“Every single person in this audience will be in the exact same position as Gogo and Didi in the play,” she said. “They’ll relate to it in a way that I don’t think ever would have happened before if the pandemic hadn’t existed.”
“I think it’s a great play to go out for drinks or whatever afterwards, and have a five-hour conversation about—what did it mean?” Natwora said. “There’s just so much that it will spark in people’s imaginations and allow them to connect in ways that they haven’t been able to do in such a very long time.”
Brüka Theatre opens its 29th season this Friday, Sept. 10, with Waiting for Godot. Performances are scheduled for Sept. 10-12, 16-19, and Sept. 29-Oct. 3. Friday and Saturday shows start at 7:30 pm. Sunday shows start at 2 pm. Doors open 30 minutes before each performance. The Oct. 3 show will be followed by a talk-back with the company.
Audience members are required to wear a mask, obey social distancing guidelines, and provide proof of vaccination. Tickets can be purchased from the Brüka Box Office, (775) 323-322 or online.