hangs on Jill Taylor’s haunting portrayal of Lucia Joyce — James Joyce’s daughter, who, in Don Nigro’s 1993 play, slips into madness largely from her unrequited, bald passion for her father’s secretary, young Samuel Beckett (Chris Batstone). Craig Flemming’s staging, nicely marbled with touches of surrealism, has no Irish accent in earshot — which expands Nigro’s theme of love and lovelessness from the very specific characters, self-exiled in Paris, to a place far beyond the literary circuit. Joyce’s wife, Nora (Danielle Dauphinee), seethes with brittle contempt for Mr. Beckett, and the manner in which he breaks Lucia’s heart. If there is no love, as Beckett insists (while engaged in a tortuous search for the perfect phrases to express the realities of life and impending death), then how can one go insane from longing — as Lucia does in this play? Batstone’s Beckett comes off as an earnest, sensitive fellow who just can’t stomach Lucia’s brazen advances and has to weedle out of a very funny ploy she concocts to get him to propose to her. Beckett is above love, and Lucia so beneath it, it crushes her. Staged in an old hotel ballroom, Batstone’s production employs scattershot lighting across multiple locales, often from actors switching desk lamps on and off in unison. This also creates looming shadows splayed across the walls, which is perfectly in keeping with the themes of longing and ghostly presences. Rory Cowan’s James Joyce is too young to embody the authority of the literary master. The madness in Taylor’s blazing redhead Lucia seems at first to be a flamboyant affect, until it becomes apparent how that very affect could well be one of her many manipulations. When she actually goes mad, her performance settles into an intense stoicism that gets to the very break of heartbreak.
Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 4 p.m. Starts: June 13. Continues through June 29, 2008

LA Weekly