HERE'S BUFORD, Aardvark, at the Playground. In this affectionate but unfocused depiction of two homeless men, Chicago playwright Vincent Bruckert delivers an updated, home-based, humor-impaired version of Waiting for Godot. But unlike Beckett's tramps, Bruckert's Ed and Buford never earn our empathy: these undeserving souls are merely better than those who exploit them--a drug dealer who sells Buford's medicaid pills and a slumming debutante who makes the duo her private charity.
Bruckert steeps his derelicts in (generic) local color and (low-grade) survivor humor. Somewhere in Lincoln Park, Buford and feckless companion Ed spend 70 minutes trying to dredge up the body of Ollie (an allusion to Laurel and Hardy), a homeless friend who drowned in Lake Michigan. They hope to bury him in the park, his favorite and final home. Like the absent Godot, the missing Ollie has obviously shaken their world, adding the threat of death to the everyday trials of stealing, avoiding cops, and finding shelter, shoes, and booze.
Ann Filmer's solid staging conveys Bruckert's world with slapstick fervor. The actors elicit an unforced sympathy: David Lee Smith's Buford exudes Vladimir's unflappable faith, and Matt Andrew (valiantly performing on opening night despite a knee injury) makes Ed a resilient dreamer. Barry Bennett tackles the unrewarding, undeveloped role of the drug dealer, and as the heiress, Heather Graff officiously minces in a 50s prom dress. Still, I'd rather wait for Godot. --Lawrence Bommer