Samuel Beckett’s bleak plays never seem more at home than in raggedy little storefront theaters in ratty old neighborhoods. Which I suppose is why the poor but earnest folks at Splinter Group (located in the only-marginally rehabbed section of Wicker Park at Damen and Division) have had such luck with Beckett. Every spring for the past three years they’ve presented Buckets o’ Beckett, an evening-long celebration of his shorter work; this year, to mark the show’s final week, Splinter Group is reviving its production of Krapp’s Last Tape. First performed two years ago in Chicago and later taken to Seattle, this extraordinary version of Beckett’s dark one-man one-act successfully reveals both the comic and deeply moving aspects of a dying man sifting through the ashes of his life. As Krapp, talented comic actor Matt O’Brien (see his hilarious portrayal of Molloy in this year’s Buckets o’ Beckett) skillfully walks Beckett’s knife-edge, easily winning laughs with Krapp’s outrageous pratfalls and earning genuine sympathy as a sad old man. The first time I saw O’Brien’s Krapp I cried during the play’s last passage, when it becomes clear how much Krapp truly loved a woman he callously tossed away decades before. I teared up again last weekend watching a videotape of the performance. Splinter Group Studio, 1937 W. Division, 342-7656. April 22 and 23: Friday-Saturday, 10:30 PM. $7.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Dave Clark.