nytheatre.com review by Martin Denton
February 21, 2009
If you're familiar with Samuel Beckett's Waiting for Godot, then you will understand the allusion in the title of this new show from CollaborationTown. You'll also know what comes next in Beckett's play—the stage direction "They do not move." But that's not what comes next in Let's Go: far from it. This collage play is full of wit, insight, and energy as it explores, in appropriate stream-of-consciousness fashion, some of the ideas and themes of Godot in a style that's alternately serious and whimsical and never less than 100% entertaining.
When we enter the theatre, the actors are on stage and the stage itself is a mess. The show commences without warning and we feel as if we're eavesdropping on an early rehearsal, or a carefully chaotic recreation of one; are the CTownies really as unprepared to start their show as they appear to be, or are they pulling our legs?
The latter option proves a decidedly accurate depiction of what's going on; the opening of Let's Go is a funny, well-calibrated parody of collaborative show-creation, all Viewpointy self-reflection. But already the more serious intention is clear, as the actor/devisers hone in on a couple of concepts that translate themes from Godot into startling new contexts: a group of Alzheimer's patients waiting for a bus that never comes; a stroke victim who is conscious of the divisions between the right and left sides of her brain (Estragon vs. Vladimir?).
The CTownies transition gradually out of the self-conscious homage to play creation and start to play. What happens in the main part of Let's Go is fluid, unexpected, and (necessarily) repetitive. Actors riff on a written memory. A scene from the Beckett play is repeated in different styles, at different speeds and volumes. The idea of the vaudevillian clown—the prototype, in many ways, of Godot protagonists Estragon and Vladimir—pops up in many different ways, ranging from a fleeting glorious tribute to Harold Lloyd to several paeans to Judy Garland (who, you will recall, liked to dress up in a tramp costume that would have been eminently suitable for a production of Godot). The famous sequence from the Judy Garland television show where she sang "Get Happy" in counterpoint with the very young Barbra Streisand doing "Happy Days are Here Again" is recreated and deconstructed: the ego/id dichotomy of the play is mirrored in that pairing, while another Beckett title is echoed in the names of both songs. Layers of meaning are unpeeled, onion-like, while we enjoy and inspect this particular pop culture artifact and others.
The show ultimately doesn't arrive at any specific conclusion—in this sense, it echoes Beckett's paradoxical direction to not go anywhere. It's a thrilling and lively consideration of some very potent ideas and at the same time a thoroughly entertaining showcase for the increasingly refined talents of the five actors who created and perform it. Their names are Geoffrey Decas, Terri Gabriel, Matthew Hopkins, Jordan Seavey, and TJ Witham (some additional material has been provided by Jesica Avellone and Boo Killebrew, who are not in Let's Go). I've been watching these remarkable young thespians for about five years now, and it is exciting and rewarding to see how they have grown and matured as artists during that time. Let's Go is an hour of pure pleasure thanks to their seamless and endlessly stimulating collaboration.