Laura Paulson, Jack Innes and Jack Kellogg in Broom Street Theater W8ting 4 G-Dogg
While philosophers like Jean-Paul Sartre are known for their deep discussions of existentialism, existential crises affect the rest of us, too. Samuel Beckett knew that and presented a problem of this sort in his famous Waiting for Godot. The Broom Street Theater production W8ting 4 G-Dogg (through April 12) isn't quite a remake of Beckett's play, though it follows a similar plot with analogous characters. It's both accessible and enjoyable.
A comedy, G-Dogg shares Godot's general tone as it analyzes how life can seem pointless. But playwright Brendan M. Hartmann changes key aspects of Godot's plot to instill an underlying meaning that Beckett avoids. G-Dogg's characters are grounded in a specific time and place, and the play sometimes gets bogged down by its narrative.
Hartmann swaps Beckett's hapless vagabonds Estragon and Vladimir for dope-fiend couple Tulipa (Laura Paulson) and Vincent (Jack Kellogg). The couple begin yet another day in what Vincent considers his needle park, where no crackheads are allowed. He and Tulipa are waiting for the man in the Lou Reed sense, contemplating hanging themselves on the decrepit streetlamp overhead. They bicker as Tulipa complains about an infection and tries to remove her boots, and they contemplate their next fix until wealthy criminal Alberto Ponzi (Jack Innes, as the delightfully prissy stand-in for Godot's Pozzo) arrives with his pack-mule of a companion, Ace (Kate Boomsma), to create some conflict or at least some pointless conversation.
G-Dogg assigns a lot more meaning to its proceedings than Godot does. The characters discuss productive ideas -- rehab, for instance -- in ways that Beckett's sometimes-brilliant idiots wouldn't dream of. Hartmann's choice to make both pairs of characters male-female romantic couples adds a layer of gender dynamics, too. The New York setting, and having the Pozzo-like character be a symbol of the recent financial crisis, make the story modern. G-Dogg is not about "nothing," as Godot is. And Boomsma's Ace re-creates the famous nonsense rant of Godot's Lucky in an even longer form, complete with cosmic musings in British accents, references to Steve Harvey-era Family Feud episodes, and slam-poetry flair that adds specificity to G-Dogg's world.
A lot of the Hartmann's ideas are fun and clever, from the rhyme-conscious characters to the maligning of cell phones. But as characters grow and change, and class dynamics are directly addressed, it becomes unclear if this is a comic portrait of absurdity in an inescapable void or more of a story about overcoming a drug-addled existence in a corrupt world. In any case, absurd moments are fun and fast paced, and the existential crises are very relatable.