WAITING FOR GODOT and ROCKABY, Remy Bumppo Productions, at Victory Gardens Theater. Because Beckett's masterwork reduces human hopes to deadening habit, relentless repetition, and selective amnesia, Waiting for Godot can teeter on the brink of tedium. Given the wrong chemistry--as in James Bohnen's coarse, half-baked staging--it even loses its capacity to console. We should at least believe that these sweet tramps deserve and need each other. But here there's little to connect Brad Armacost's spidery-delicate, lyrically Irish, earnest Estragon with Marc Vann's sardonic, flatly midwestern Vladimir. Rather than set each other off, they cancel each other out. Vann's sarcastic deadpan is most to blame: it ignores his character's pathos, humor, and innocence and makes Beckett's ash can poetry about as thrilling as a weather report.
In fact all four actors seem to have arrived here from different plays. Equally trapped in unintegrated acting styles are Craig Spidle, whose brutal Pozzo exudes a heartily phony American bonhomie, and Thomas Carroll as spastic Lucky: his tour-de-force monologue is marred by distracting blocking. But Robert Smith's beautifully bleak set and elegant petrified tree are evocatively minimal.
If you're willing to wait 165 minutes, Remy Bumppo's weekend performances of Waiting for Godot are followed by Beckett's 15-minute monologue Rockaby. Marilyn Dodds Frank performs this serene, moving portrait with haunting immediacy, as a woman dies in her rocking chair with the same frozen memory repeating within and without her.