It's a solid cast, tidily directed, performing three lesser-known one-acts by one of the 20th century's playwriting gods. And so we're fairly satisfied, sitting there, observing and thinking and possibly feeling. But on opening night, toward the end of Krapp's Last Tape, there was a moment when the actor, his character's anger boiling over, pulled at the reel of tape and struck the hanging lamp above his head. The light swung slowly, changing the shadows on the actor, seeming to change the perspective through which we saw him. It is either extraordinarily detailed direction-as seems to be the case with much else here-or a happy fortuity that the actor allows to continue and seems to relish. In either case it's extremely fine skill, as here the actor and director are the same: R. S. Bailey.
In Krapp's Last Tape the elderly Krapp listens to a recording of himself, "the stupid bastard I took myself for 30 years ago," focusing on one segment when he recounts trying to make love in a boat. Let's leave all the meaning up to the scholars. This 45-minute piece passes quickly, yet it lets the audience do so much: appreciate the craft, ponder the text, suffer the draining emotions.
Bailey also adeptly directs the other two one-acts, playing in repertory with Krapp. In Footfalls, May shuffles across the stage-nine steps, one half-turn, nine more steps, another turn-talking to someone she calls Mother (beautifully voiced by Nicolette Chaffey), "revolving it all, it all in my poor mind." Mary Dryden plays May with ghostly frailty, Dryden not imposing on us her decisions of who May is and what she is doing.
In Rough for Theatre One two men--one blind and one lamed-meet on a "street corner in ruins." They discuss compensating for each other's disabilities, then engage in the ultimate power play. Billy Hayes plays the blind character A, barefoot and filthy, sawing at a decrepit violin; Jeff Murray plays character B in a wheelchair made of a shopping cart to look rather like a throne. The two actors seem magnetized to each other, giving huge amounts of energy, focusing deeply, struggling for their characters' lives because they are not unhappy enough to die.
Beckett wanted no bows for the actors; the company gives itself none. Too bad. In this case the actors more than deserve them.
Presented by and at Theatre/Theater, 5041 W. Pico Blvd., L.A. "Footfalls" and "Krapp's Last Tape," Fri. 8 p.m.; "Rough for Theatre One" and "Krapp's Last Tape," Sat. 8 p.m. Jan. 6-Feb. 11. (323) 466-3134.