If you thought Waiting for Godot was weird in English, try watching it in Yiddish. And thanks to a partnership between the New Yiddish Rep and the Castillo Theatre, now you can.
Godot seems perfectly at home in Shane Baker’s fluid and idiomatic Yiddish translation. But for those of us who aren’t fluent, there’s no need to worry, as there are English and Russian supertitles. Samuel Beckett’s inimitable dialogue is peppered with Talmudic expressions, and Baker (who also plays protagonist Vladimir) has incorporated some cultural and religious references that even non-Yiddish speakers can still understand.
Though the story is not recast as a particularly Jewish one, the translation into Yiddish was not done aftselokhes (for the hell of it). Baker notes that Beckett wrote the play in 1948-49, and that decade’s catastrophic events were on his mind. In early drafts of the play, one of the main characters was named Levy. Rather than being kitschy, elegiac, or nostalgic, staging Godot in Yiddish enhances our understanding of the play and its context.
Watch a trailer of the new production: