Aaron Rocklyn sets his sights high from the outset with the very title of his play, an obvious reference to Beckett’s famous Waiting for Godot--but it’s a tough act to follow. In this show presented by Unraveling Muses, Rocklyn wants to “put four ordinary midwesterners into the dark world of Absurdism and poke some holes into all that bleakness,” as he says in his program notes. But trying to walk the line between “conventional comedy and an absurdist piece” isn’t a recipe for success--and the title Waiting for Nobody seems all too apropos for a play opening to a nearly empty house last weekend.
With a cast of just four, Rocklyn’s own presence is a bit overwhelming in this production: he is the writer, the director, and plays the role of Steve, one of his two protagonists in Waiting for Nobody. The other main character, Bob, is played by Ryan Kathman. The two truckers spend the whole two-hour production trying to drive to Cadott, Wisconsin, with an unknown cargo before dawn.
Whereas the premise and driving force of Waiting for Godot is the promise of change even as there is the agonizing certainty that absolutely nothing is happening, Waiting for Nobody isn’t really about waiting at all. The truckers move from place to place, encounter weird women who remind them of past lovers, and generally spend most of the play delivering lines like “I’ve never driven it and yet I have.” Rocklyn has seemingly substituted aimlessness for absurdity.
Despite the occasional flash of wit, the script too often relies on puns and wordplay in lieu of any hint of dramatic tension. In their encounters with the two women (Dee, played by Angela Cain; and Mindy, played by Rachel Finch), Bob and Steve are reduced to the stereotype of two dumb white guys, deemed losers by the world, dumped by their girlfriends (who are apparently now lesbians).
None of this is particularly new or absurd; wasn’t the same theme on “Friends” about ten years ago? That theme is as tired as I felt after “Waiting for Nobody.” Which just about sums it up.