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Best o'Buckets 

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Beckett's short plays may be less frequently performed than his longer, better known works, but these curt, astringent little morsels (maybe a minute long, maybe 15 minutes) have a simplicity and purity that make them in some ways more satisfying: Beckett, who spent his career paring down his language and simplifying his vision, manages to say a great deal in very little time, and with a minimum of props and dialogue. In the stark yet darkly funny Ohio Impromptu, for example, he uses two nearly motionless characters sitting at opposite ends of a table, one reading aloud, the other listening, to reprise the theme from Krapp's Last Tape of a love irrevocably and regrettably lost--but in about an eighth of the time. These shorter works are also appealing because they're so unforgiving; there's no room for "not half bad" in a Beckett production. So it's thrilling when a director like Marc Rosenbush gets it right and manages to release the comedy in Beckett's pantomime Act Without Words #2 or reveal the pathos of Play, in which three members of an ill-fated love triangle spend the afterlife entombed in huge urns, forced to confess again and again the dreary details of their aborted fornications. The folks who've produced so many of Beckett's short plays at past "Buckets o' Beckett" festivals have put together a show reviving their five most successful pieces: the three mentioned plus Footfalls (directed by Matt O'Brien) and Nacht und Traume (Night and Dreams). Theatre Building, 1225 W. Belmont, 327-5252. Through May 21: Sundays at 7 PM, $14.

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