Theater review: ‘Godot’ — 2 stars; ‘No Man’s Land’ — 3 stars

Waiting for Godot

No Man’s Land

While it was a marvelous idea to pair up Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen as the quintessential tramps Vladimir and Estragon in “Waiting for Godot,” this revival of Beckett’s existentialist classic is weighed down by Sean Mathias’ problematic direction and the decision to perform it in repertory with Harold Pinter’s 1975 drama “No Man’s Land.”

McKellen makes a strong impression visually as a bearded, homeless-looking, hopelessly sleepy Estragon, and Stewart is full of spark as the rationalizing Vladimir. However, their recitation of the text is off-balance, with Mc-Kellen offering little expressivity and too many lines played up for laughs.

But more problematic is Shuler Hensley’s cartoonish performance as the bombastic Pozzo, which is marked by an unnecessary Southern accent and a yodeling tone, and Billy Crudup’s ineffective interpretation of the slave Lucky, in which he comes off as merely creepy instead of compelling.

In “No Man’s Land,” an established poet (Stewart) who inexplicably invites to his home a barfly (McKellen) who may or may not be his old school chum, leaving the literary figure’s secretary and bodyguard (Crudup and Hensley) puzzled. Although it is a minor title in the Pinter canon, it is the more successful of the shows.

However, one can’t help but wonder if “Godot” would have been done better without having “No Man’s Land” in tow. It can be assumed that older actors would have been cast as Pozzo and Lucky since they would not need to double as the young supporting characters in “No Man’s Land.”