Fifty years ago, on the occasion of the New York premiere of Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot, Brooks Atkinson famously described the play as “a mystery wrapped in an enigma.” One might characterize John Griffin’s new play Godot Has Left the Building as an homage wrapped in a purloining. In some post-industrial present, ornamented with broken computer monitors and crumpled Starbucks cups, two beleaguered workers make do with a single pair of boots and the occasional existential cri de coeur.
In his director’s note, Will Pomerantz describes the piece as “a conversation with Samuel Beckett’s play.” For a slight man, Beckett casts an immense shadow over contemporary drama—so the conversation’s rather one-sided. A single flower replaces the leafing tree, an old man and an actor stand in for Pozzo and Lucky, shepherd boys are absent, but these interventions don’t amount to a distinct vision. Griffin can’t escape his ur-text. Still, the script does occasion a lovely use of stage space, courtesy Pomerantz and set and lighting designer Garin Marschall, and a few sprightly moments by actors Edward Griffin and Scott David Nogi. We’d like to see playwright Griffin turn his pen to less imitative material. As one of his latter-day tramps declares, “It’s too early to be out of words so soon.”