nytheatre.com review by Kelly Aliano
November 14, 2008
VLADIMIR: We'll hang ourselves tomorrow. Unless Godot comes.
ESTRAGON: And if he comes?
VLADIMIR: We'll be saved.
This exchange occurs toward the end of Samuel Beckett's absurdist masterpiece Waiting for Godot. For Flow, written by Kesav M. Wable and directed by Jonathan Solari, is the contemporary descendant of Beckett's play. Here, instead of two tramps in an empty locationless void, we meet Dee and Kane, two young aspiring rappers waiting for a producer named Flow in the urban void of a deserted street corner in the Bronx.
Dee tells Kane of his encounter with Flow; Flow heard him rapping at a local club and gave him his card. As the conversation unfolds, we learn that Dee actually knows very little about Flow besides his name (which may actually be the name of his company), and has no specifics regarding this supposedly scheduled meeting, except that he believes that this is the intended location and that Flow will arrive there at some point that day. Dee has invited Kane to accompany him while he waits under one vital condition—that Kane enter his circle of belief that Flow will come. In order to pass the time, like Didi and Gogo before them, they banter and palaver, consistently threatening to leave the other, yet never quite able to go. Two visitors—an attractive DJ named Roxanne and a world-weary guitar player named Broonzy—provide needed diversions for Dee and Kane as nothing is happening.
When the play adheres to the structure of Waiting for Godot, it is brilliant. There are various dialogic riffs that are reminiscent and even referential of Beckett's text. One striking example is a mention of how Kane's boots are bothering him—supposedly fake Timberlands, as it were—which is a brilliant reinterpretation of Estragon's complaints throughout Godot. Wable's writing is clever, and at times hilarious and poignant, and it is this language that drives the piece forward. The play does a superb job at suspending a traditional sense of time—it is hard to establish how long Dee and Kane have been waiting. There is little evidence of how much time has passed, giving the audience the perfect sense of an absurdist construction of eternity.
The actors are all very good; their timing delivering the poetic text is extremely well done. The encounters come off a bit contrived, but the connections among the four performers more than make up for it. However, the play is a tad too long and could be tightened up. In addition, the director could have refrained from having quite so many rap sequences. However, considering that both Devere Rogers and Vladimi Versailles, who play Dee and Kane, respectively, were not principally rappers beforehand, their performances are commendable. The set, designed by Jordan Wagenseller, is absolutely brilliant; it is a very realistic rendering of a New York City street corner. The whole environment of the piece sets the tone—from the moment you enter the theatre, the lighting is dark, smoke fills the space, and the sounds of passing trains can be heard.
This play is a reminder of how the young artist struggles in and for his/her art form. These two have committed themselves to their work; by having faith in an outside force—their Flow—the uncertain future is easier to face. As we find in Beckett, the reminder here is that an individual cannot just do nothing if he/she wants his/her life to change. Kane and Dee seem to have learned more than Didi and Gogo; they know that they do not need Flow to come for them to be saved. By being in their circle of belief, by having faith in their art and in themselves, and by not being willing to give up, they will make it some day. It will just be a matter of time.