nytheatre.com review by Shelley Molad
November 21, 2008
Since its inception, Samuel Beckett's Waiting for Godot has been subject to various interpretations. Translated into English from his original En Attendant Godot, which was written in French in the late 1940s, Beckett's play centers around two characters, Vladimir and Estrogen, who wait for someone named Godot, who never arrives. Though there is much speculation over the play's ascription to existentialism, this recurring theme has served as an inspiration for many works, including Korean dancer and choreographer Sin Cha Hong's solo dance drama, Godot, which makes its American debut at La MaMa E.T.C.
Sin Cha Hong does not literally borrow characters or dialogue from Beckett's play; she incorporates certain elements, such as the single, scrawny tree as her centerpiece (plus a rope and shoes), using Waiting for Godot as a backdrop to explore her own void and embark upon an inward spiritual quest. Hong awakens beneath the tree on an otherwise bare, open stage and proceeds to dance in slow movements to sensorial, live percussion performed by David Simons, who plays a range of instruments that are seated with him atop a carpet on the side of the stage. The stark set, which subtly but beautifully indicates the passage of time through a light projection of fallen leaves and an isolated snowfall, together with the music is quite stunning.
While Hong certainly evokes the insular world of Beckett's Godot, she doesn't quite pique our interest as well as she could have had she utilized some of the dialogue or additional characters in Waiting for Godot. Keeping in mind that Hong has created a dance drama, without words, it may have been interesting to see other dancers on stage for Hong to interact and communicate with. The whole appeal of Waiting for Godot is that it's a tragicomedy; while the mood and situation are grave, the characters compel us with their witty banter, which flies back and forth like a ping-pong match.
As an audience we feel somewhat detached, watching Hong paint an imposingly intimate piece. But Hong's unflinching commitment to her visually and spiritually meditative choreography is admirable and worth noting, as is her effort and partial success at bringing Beckett's classic to life through movement.