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Ian McKellen, Patrick Stewart dive into the absurd in ‘Waiting for Godot’ and ‘No Man’s Land’

Maya Phillips | 1/23/2014, 12:34 p.m.
Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen are the best pairing since peanut butter and jelly
Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen in “Waiting For Godot”

No matter the strengths and weakness of the shows, Stewart and McKellen both provide impressive performances and stand in the spotlight. Unfortunately for Crudup and Hensley, that means they are consigned to be the background singers to Stewart’s and McKellen’s front stage divas. That’s no reflection on Crudup’s and Hensley’s skills; they simply do not have the interesting lead roles. Besides, what else can you expect when you share a stage with Magneto and Professor X?

It makes sense aesthetically to have these two plays paired together. Both plays feature men trapped outside of time and normality in a type of purgatory. In “Waiting for Godot,” it is a state of inactivity, an endless wait for a person who may never appear, and in “No Man’s Land,” it is just as the title suggests—a never moving, never changing place. There are no changes of setting in these plays; we remain stuck with the characters in their places of origin. So too can these plays be interpreted in myriad ways, allowing their audiences to read homoeroticism, religion or political critique into “Waiting for Godot” or the psychology or existentialism of “No Man’s Land.” Either way, these plays exist in the realm of the absurd, allowing no clear answers or understanding, instead indulging in their own obscurity and dark humor, taking pleasure in the irrational, the illogical and the nothingness of existence, thereby shunning all traditional modes of theatrical structure—such trifles as conflict, rising action, falling action, climax, etc. Each play relishes the disconnect between its characters and the disconnect between its characters and an outside world that is propelled by time and reason. In short, each play is definitely an experience you should prepare for.

“Waiting for Godot” and “No Man’s Land” are now playing at the Cort Theatre (138 W. 48th St.) through March 2, 2014. For tickets or information, call 212-239-6200 or visit twoplaysinrep.com.