Waiting for Bedpan
London, 1954. One of the earliest known parodies of Beckett’s existentialist classic was penned by the venerable drama critic Arthur Bryce. Bryce’s initial reviews of the play called it “frankly idiotic,” “folly at interminable length,” and “a blot on the escutcheon of the theatre.” When this review failed to derail Beckett’s play, Bryce took it upon himself to craft this parody, in which an elderly man named Sam suffers silently in his hospital bed while he waits for the orderlies, who have been “dis-ordered” by vapid modern theater, to bring him a bedpan. To Bryce’s chagrin, the play ran for only ten performances; to what Bryce later confessed was his secret delight, Beckett himself took in one of those performances while visiting London. “What a prophetic work,” he quipped. “I do have to go to the loo.”
Waiting For McCarthy
Berkeley, California, 1968. The rock musician Frank Zappa partially funded and may have partially written this overtly polemic work, which focused on a group of young people in despair over the popularity of Richard Nixon. Vladimir and Estragon have been renamed Michael and Michelle — some critics thought that the play was lampooning the counterculture’s own brand of nonconformist conformity — and the central couple spends the first half of the play topless, lounging in bed. When Lucky enters, he is carrying two cups of black coffee and a framed portrait of Tom Hayden. Pozzo, predictably, is a crude caricature of Nixon.
Waiting for Waiting for Godot
Reed College, 1974. This play grew from a real-life incident concerning theater majors waiting for the arrival of visiting professor and Beckett expert Jonathan Burkman, who had called a meeting for Monday, 9 a.m. to discuss that semester’s production of Krapp’s Last Tape. By 10, Burkman had not arrived, and one of the students proposed writing a play about his tardiness. Another student suggested that the students’ actual conversation could be used as a starting point. Done.
Waiting for Good Blow
New York, 1979. Vladimir and Estragon retained their names and most of their lines in this production, which recast them as downtown hustlers and part-time band managers meeting with their drug dealer on a Manhattan street corner. The long and somewhat sadistic set of instructions delivered to Lucky by Pozzo in Act II was left untouched. All actors wore black leather jackets and sunglasses; the soundtrack, delivered faux-amateurishly from an onstage boombox, redundantly included several songs by the Ramones, including “53rd and 3rd” and “Carbona Not Glue.”
Oh! He’s Here!
Coeur D’Alene, Idaho, 1985. Shortly after graduating from the theater program at Columbia University, the playwright Linton Kwesi Silverstein (née David Silverstein) broke up with his girlfriend and perennial leading lady, Elaine Wofford, who had moved with him from New York. A few nights after the breakup, a drunken and despondent Silverstein penned this absurdist reduction of Beckett’s play, in which Godot appears before the first curtain is raised, looks around for Vladimir and Estragon, cannot find them, and, convinced of his solitude, urinates onstage. The play also included a chess match between Lucky and Pozzo in which the game pieces were severed human fingers that, when touched, sang snatches of disco hits such as “More, More, More” and “Knock on Wood.” There was only one known performance.
Waiting for Saddam
Baghdad, 2003. After a tattered copy of the original play found its way into the hands of students at al-Mustansiriyah University, they quickly cobbled together a crude political satire that owed as much to South Park as the Beckett. It is not known whether the play has ever been staged, but it has been posted on the Internet. Updated daily to reflect changing political realities — the most recent draft incorporates the deaths of Uday and Qusay Hussein — the evolving work has attracted the attention of an independent television producer who has already contracted with Britain’s Channel 4 and America’s Fox network for a reality show called Down and Out in Baghdad Hills which will follow a ragtag bunch of Iraqi comedians and satirists attempting to remake post-Hussein Iraq with the power of laughter.