A successful staging of Samuel Beckett's absurdist classic requires a director who can mine the play's comic and lyrical elements, and effectively meld them with the author's relentlessly harsh vision. Here, director Paul Plunkett does just that, aided by an excellent cast which maintains that crucial balance throughout. Endgame is about four pitiful characters trapped in a dismal room as the outside world collapses in decay and sterility. Unlike the forlorn tramps in Waiting for Godot, there is no expectation of relief or purpose, just the slow passage of time ending in an inevitable, painful demise. Confined in a pair of battered, industrial containers, the ghoulish-looking Nagg and Nell (Barry Ford and the striking Kathy Bell Denton) emerge sporadically to break the tedium of the central "action," which unfolds on a rickety caricature of a throne. There, the blind, crippled Hamm (Leon Russom) is unable to move and has his needs tended to by the perpetually besieged Clov (David Fraioli), in a bizarre, ongoing ritual of servitude. When, toward the end, Hamm asks about his painkiller, and is told by Clov that there isn't any more, we know that, for this outing anyway, the laughs are balm enough. As effective as Plunkett's direction is, this fine revival really soars on the wings of the cast's terrific performances. Sacred Fools Theater, 660 N. Heliotrope Drive, Silver Lake, Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m., Sun., April 10 & 17, 7 p.m., thru April 23. (310) 281-8337.
Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sun., April 10, 7 p.m.; Sun., April 17, 7 p.m. Starts: March 18. Continues through April 23, 2011