waiting for Waiting for Godot to end
Sunday, March 18 2012
Gretchen and I had our weekly coffee this morning, and once I was sufficiently jacked up on that, I climbed a ladder into one of the tall White Pines immediately east of our house in hopes of being able to saw off one of the WiFi-blocking branches using the 18 foot pole saw. This time, though, the branch was just out of reach. I might have been able to get to it had I taken insane risks. But one doesn't live to 44 by taking insane risks. At this point I realize the only way to remove that (and other) branches will be to use the rope chain saw. But the only way to get that saw over that branch will be to use archery.
Today Gretchen had plans to go to Rhinebeck to see our friend-of-a-friend Jim playing "Lucky" in a performance of Waiting for Godot. She knows I'm no fan of Rhinebeck or, for that matter, live theatre, but she asked in a way that suggested I should want to go. One of the things that suggested this was the list of people who would also be going: Paul and Ingrid, Deborah, and Michæl. Originally Deborah's new boyfriend was supposed to be coming as well, but she'd already broken up with the guy. So, despite all the ways I might have preferred to spend my entire afternoon and evening, I said okay.
Again we carpooled with from the "blowjob spot" (where Route 199 crosses over Route 32), riding in Paul's enormous truck, whose back seat turns out to be wide enough to accommodate four adults.
It was a glorious warm sunny day in Rhinebeck, making it look even more like a simulacrum than it normally does. Everybody looked a little too clean and well-dressed, and not a single African American was in evidence. "I'm glad to see Rhinebeck is continuing its whites-only policy," I said. Later I would find myself wondering aloud whether theatre staff would accept checks drawn from accounts on the west side of the Hudson and if it was possible to get a salsa any spicier than spaghetti sauce here on its east side. (Ingrid elbowed me when she heard me asking that first question.)
At the Cocoon Theatre, tickets were $25/each and some of the panels of the dropped ceiling had been painted black. The stage had what I learned was the usual set for Waiting for Godot: a bleak series of desolate mountains, a crag where one could sit, and a single poorly-realized tree.
About five minutes into the play, I realized it had been carefully engineered to be anything but entertaining. The dialog seemed crafted so as to avoid referring to anything concrete or the slightest bit interesting, or to move forward any sort of plot. Upon realized that I would have to sit through more than an hour of this tedium before even making it to the intermission, I felt an overwhelming despair settle over me. Part of the problem was that I was coming down off the morning's coffee. But part of it was the realization of what a waste I'd made of my afternoon. Mind you, I tried to open myself up to the action and dialog, but it was no use. I just wanted to be out of there.
The faults with Waiting for Godot had nothing to do with how it was being acted. Indeed, our friend Jim did an incredible job as Lucky, particularly when spouting nonsensical "thought" upon being ordered to do so by his master. That was the closest I came to being entertained for the entire two and a half hours we were there.
Interestingly, there were a few people present who actually seemed to be enjoying the show. They laughed at bits of dialog they found funny and moaned with pleasure at certain bits of stage craft. For my part, nothing sounded even the slightest bit funny and I wondered if perhaps these people were faking their enjoyment. That seemed to be the case with Deborah, whom I knew to be nearly as miserable as myself but who was the most vocal with her appreciative utterances.
At the intermission, Paul joked that they'd done the whole show without an intermission and we could go now, but of course that wasn't the case. Gretchen, who clearly had found the play disappointing, wondered if Jim's character would make an appearance in the second act, and if not, perhaps we could go. But no, he did have an appearance. Gretchen's biggest concern was me; she knew from experience that this was hell for me. She said I could go, maybe hang out at a bar, and we could meet up after the second act.
By this point I'd bought a bag of popcorn and eating it was restoring me back to a more lifelike state. Though I told the others that simply being in audience for this play was "perhaps the hardest thing I have ever done," I said I could probably survive sitting through the second half. And so the intermission ended and we went back into the theatre.
The popcorn definitely helped me endure the second half of the production. I found myself breaking up the dreary expanse of time into bite-sized moments, each long enough to chew and swallow a popped kernal. (Ingrid later said she'd pursued a similar strategy.) Eventually I ran out of popped pop corn and so transitioned to eating unpopped kernals, soaking them in my saliva and splitting off little morsels using percussive blows from my canines (which both Deborah and Ingrid later told me they'd been able to hear). Theatre staff had told us that the second half would be very different from the first, but it was all pretty much a repeat. The whole thing represented two rotations of an endless hellish cycle. Nothing happened because nothing could; the characters lacked the resources to change over time, unaided as they were by usable memories, realistic hopes, or any unprocastinatable action.
Somehow, though, the second half passed much faster than the first had. It probably helped that I knew what I was up against. When the lights went dark for the final time, I found myself clapping harder than I've ever clapped for a performance before. The sheer joy of knowing that the ordeal had finally ended was proportional to the suffering I'd just been experiencing.
Out on street in front of the theatre, we chatted for a time with Jim (who, sadly, was no longer in character) and then we all went over to Gaby's, a Mexican restaurant in downtown Rhinebeck. Somewhat surprisingly for Rhinebeck, the place was entirely staffed with Hispanics, allowing Ingrid to order in her native tongue. To celebrate our survival of Waiting for Godot (and none of us had exactly enjoyed the performance), we got a half pitcher of mojitos and another half of margaritas (they were muy fuerto). I ordered the vegetable fajitas in Spanish ("fajitas de verduras, no con crema o queso por favor") and they weren't too exciting. At the end of our meal, we were each given shots of what looked like tequila, though it actually turned out to be some sort of pineapple liquor.
Somewhat surprisingly, Gretchen found herself drinking more enthusiastically than normal. I could tell she was a little drunk because her speech was slurring and she was actually agreeing with me as I argued with the others. (I was saying Cristo's art looked like yet-more junking up of the landscape and that I much preferred the naturalistic art of Andy Goldsworthy).
Since I was the most sober of the two of us, I was the one who ended up driving us home from the blowjob spot.
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