Samuel Beckett famously peppered his dramas with bits borrowed from silent comedians and music hall clowns. The protagonists of Waiting for Godot are essentially a pair of baggy-pants vaudevillians, and the playwright once wrote, "Nothing is funnier than unhappiness." Still, it's a dangerous choice to play Beckett for laughs, in part because his message--summarized in the line "They give birth astride of a grave"--is so bleak. Director Christopher Bayes takes the risk and reaps the rewards in this finely wrought production of one of Beckett's darkest works: Bayes has mastered the art of winning laughs one minute and shocking the audience the next with the play's dark truths and despair. As idiotic servant Clov, Joe Foust (in traditional clown whiteface) entertains us with his funny walk; soon enough, however, we learn he walks that way because he's crippled. Allen Gilmore as Hamm, the windbag at the center of the play, also makes his character both laughable and pitiable, enhancing Beckett's bitter, witty exchanges: when Clov asks Hamm if he believes in the life to come, Hamm replies, "Mine was always that." Through 6/26: Wed-Thu 7:30 PM, Fri 8 PM, Sat 3 and 8 PM, Sun 2:30 and 7:30 PM. Court Theatre, 5535 S. Ellis, 773-753-4472. $35-$50.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Michael Brosilow.