The set of Waiting for Godot is comprised of one dead tree, an expressionistic desert background and a floor covered in burlap. It’s a stark scene, and feels slightly menacing, a lot like the language in Irish writer Samuel Beckett’s seminal work.
It’s also a lot like the financial situation of Innovation Theater Works. The nonprofit theater company, which got started in Bend in 2008, is in dire straights. If this play does not net enough cash, ITW’s Artistic Director Brad Hills said it will be curtains for Innovation. (See sidebar).
That’s a travesty. Because Innovation’s productions have been tops, and Waiting for Godot proves once again that this theater company’s work is some of the best you’ll find in this town.
Waiting for Godot is an absurdist play, with a very small cast, framed around two men’s torturous wait for a character named Godot who never comes. Beckett, a modernist who was strongly influenced by James Joyce, wrote Godot in 1949. When he died forty years later, his New York Times obit said the play changed theater forever.
For the main roles in the production, Hills, who directs, brought in professional stage actors Tim Blough, as Estragon, and Andrew Hickman, as Vladimir. Blough, who lives in Portland, recently acted in television shows Leverage and Grimm. Hickman, who recently moved to Bend from Portland, is a veteran actor who performed here last summer with Central Oregon Community College theater professor Lilli Ann Foreman in an excerpt from The Taming of the Shrew for Shakespeare in the Park. Rounding out the cast are local actors Liam Mykaeil O’Sruitheain and Alastair Morley Jaques.
Blough and Hickman gave two of our reviewer’s favorite theatre performances of all time. She said the performances ranked right up there with William Hurt in Portland Center Stage’s production of Long Day’s Journey into Night and Dan Donohue in Oregon Shakespeare Festival’s Hamlet.
As the two men, doomed to repeat the same day over and over, wait for Godot, Blough and Hickman spend 25 percent of the play asking questions of each other and the rest delivering classic lines such as Estrogon’s “We always find something to give us the impression that we exist,” with a passion, vulnerability and optimism that does the great play justice. Hickman, especially, commands the stage in Charlie Chaplin-esque fashion that feels dour and sad but is infused with hope.
After two hours of the back and forth, these actors left the audience inspired and grateful for taking them along on the existential journey. The performance was truly worth the time and money. ITW’s Godot isn’t just great theater, but necessary theatre. It would be a shame to lose it.Curtains for Innovation?
Innovation Theater Works is in financial trouble.
A combination of competition from other theaters, a slow economy and a lack of publicity are all factors in bringing the theater company to what ITW’s Artistic Director Brad Hills calls “a crossroads.”
“We are not doing well,” said Hills. “If Godot does not succeed at the box office, my only conclusion is that this town is not actually interested in first-class professional theatre.”
The theater group, whose website says it is Central Oregon’s first and only regional professional theatrical organization, has brought diverse and offbeat plays to Bend since 2008. Last month, the company presented Mr. Marmelade about a four-year-old girl and her drug-addicted, physically abusive imaginary friend. It was dark, interesting and got great feedback, but still ticket sales were slow.
Now the company must face the harsh reality that it may not be able to finish out the season, said Hills, in an April 9 news release.
“Unless we can average at least 50 sold tickets per show over the remaining ten performances of Waiting for Godot, we will be forced to close our doors,” said Hills.