Waiting for Godot

Flying, like Godot

"To Fly Again," Jerry Mouawad's brilliant new riff on Beckett, just opened at Imago. Now it's about to close. Catch it while you can.

Walking into Imago Theatre’s Southeast Portland performance space to see To Fly Again, Jerry Mouawad’s verbally nimble, visually wonderful and profoundly light-hearted new show, you enter a strange yet familiar landscape, a rolling plain of sand like a beach’s or a desert’s, a wilderness broken only by a single tree. Quite like that place where Didi and Gogo hang out, waiting and waiting for Godot.

This is no accident. “I cast four actors who had a ‘clown state’ somewhere inside them,” Mouawad told ArtsWatch’s Marty Hughley a few days before the show opened. “I think I’ve flushed out their clowns.” He elaborated: “I thought, ‘Yes, clowns should do Beckett.’ However, I didn’t want to do Beckett. I like Beckett but I wanted something with less of a down quality.”

The family, huddling: from left, Mullaney, Ottosen, Holder, Woods. Photo: Jubel Brosseau

So, not Waiting for Godot, but a variant, an homage, an elaboration, a playful riff that is funny and oddly touching on its own, and funnier and more touching the more you know about Beckett and Godot. The action, such as it is, centers on a quartet of oddball characters, a sort of wandering family-by-default, known as Stink Bomb, Tater, Togo, and Bob (Mark Mullaney, the divinely hesitant Stephanie Woods, Nathaniel Holder and Jake Ottoson, respectively). They do and say the sorts of things that wandering families-by-default in Beckett plays tend to do and say, although Mouawad has given their terse dialogue his own knowing, tongue-in-cheek twists. Their snatches of conversation are proto-Beckettian, coming from nowhere, meaning nothing or everything, and delivered with a deadpan Sad Sack seriousness that, taken with the shambling baggy-pants quality of the whole affair, are frightfully funny: