'Sam I Am' showcases Beckett's short plays 

"Waiting for Godot" takes a whole evening for the audience, and eternity for Vladimir and Estragon, Samuel Beckett’s two most memorable characters. Much shorter and far less well known: the great Irish playwright’s short plays, a bouquet of which is coming to San Francisco.

Chicago’s Performers Under Stress theater — whose track record isn’t widely documented — presents the West Coast premiere of "Sam I Am" (a title borrowed from Dr. Seuss’ "Green Eggs and Ham") through May 20 in The Garage, a new performance space at 975 Howard St. It is directed by Scott Baker, who co-founded the Chicago company 15 years ago, and performed with Charles Pike, and the participation of Skip Emerson, George Epsilanty, Valerie Fachman, Brendan Scoggin and Sharon Sittloh.

Last year, Baker and Pike presented "The Farmington Armada: Inciting Sightings" at Shotwell Studios, a series of short scenes about reactions to UFO sightings in the 1950s in the New Mexico town.

"Sam I Am" selections include Beckett’s last prose work, the 1988 "Stirrings Still," in which the narrator finds himself in an uncertain situation for an unknown amount of time in an unknown place — a fitting representation of the writer’s dedication to ambiguity. The piece was republished posthumously in 1990 with another title: "As the Story Was Told."

Beckett, whose 1969 Nobel Prize in Literature cited his "elevation ... of the destitution of modern man," is no picnic for the theatergoer. Cryptic, pessimistic — albeit with well-hidden humor — and starkly plain, Beckett plays challenge and disturb but provide substance to chew on long after thetheater goes dark.

These are the pieces making up the program: "Rough for Theatre II" follows two bureaucrats as they assess the life of somebody ready to jump out of a window. "Footfalls" is a conversation between ghosts. "Act Without Words I" is about a mime tormented by objects he cannot reach.

"Eh Joe" depicts a man worn down by the voices of the ghosts of dead lovers who seek revenge.

"Play" is a bizarre love triangle of two women and a man ... and three large urns. "Rough for Radio II," first produced as a radio play starring Harold Pinter, is about the interrogation of a man, questioned for reasons unknown to him and to the audience.

IF YOU GO

Sam I Am

Where: The Garage, 975 Howard St., San Francisco
When: 8 p.m. Thursdays through Sundays; closes May 20
Tickets: $10 to $20
Contact: (415) 948-5637 or http://pusworks.org

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