Will Kern’s dark comedy, about a day in the life of a poor, beleaguered Chicago cabdriver, is so strong and real it can withstand any spin a director or cast puts on it. You want it real dark? It works. You want it funny? It works then too. You want it light and dark? No problem. You want a movie version with John Cusack and a handful of noteworthy cameos? See Chicago Cab, to be released later this fall. Hey, this is Hellcab. It’s a good thing Kern’s play is so resilient, because every year or so for the past six years the folks at Famous Door have had to rebuild their late-night hit from scratch. The current incarnation, directed by Dado and starring Larry Neumann Jr., is not the darkest Hellcab I’ve seen. Nor is it the funniest. But thanks to Dado’s insistence on emotional truth, this Hellcab is the most moving. Neumann’s cabdriver is not full of stifled rage like Paul Dillon’s, nor is he cynical and apparently drugged out like Rich Cotovsky’s. He’s just a martyr to his job. Overworked and overwhelmed, Neumann’s Christlike driver meets every challenge with the same resigned exhaustion–an approach that makes the character at once more vulnerable, more likable, and funnier in a very bittersweet way. Likewise Dado’s cast works double time to make the sordid assortment of clowns, fools, and madmen who parade through Neumann’s cab as grounded in reality as possible, a move that heightens Kern’s drama and makes his comedy more subtle. Ivanhoe Theater, 750 W. Wellington, 773-975-7171. Open run: Fridays-Saturdays, 10 PM; Sundays, 7 PM. $10-$15; free for cabdrivers with license. –Jack Helbig

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo by Jeff Pines.