Romanian-born Matei Visniec is one of the world's most popular absurdist playwrights, yet his work wasn't produced in the States until last year, nearly 30 years after he wrote his first play. In July 2004 Gregory A. Fortner staged Old Clown Wanted, Visniec's breakthrough 1992 script, for the New Jersey Repertory Company. Now Fortner's staging it for Trap Door Theatre, which opens the show here this week after performing it at New York's "Act French" festival. This sweet but disturbing work clearly pays homage to the godfather of absurdist drama, Samuel Beckett: three aging out-of-work clowns wait in a barren anteroom to audition for one spot with an unknown, possibly nonexistent circus. Despondent over their obsolescence ("No one laughs at somersaults anymore," one laments), they turn on one another as their professional prospects dwindle. This thoughtful, well-paced production is also self-consciously theatrical, so it appeals more to the head than the heart. But the performers' distance from their characters opens up space for audience members to ruminate, which can make the evening more poignant. Opens Thu 12/8, 8 PM. Through 1/14: Thu-Sat 8 PM, no show Sat 12/24 and 12/31, Trap Door Theatre, 1655 W. Cortland, 773-384-0494, $20, two for one Thu.