THEATER: DISPELLING THE GLOOM

SAMUEL BECKETT GETS A STAGE FESTIVAL AND TWO NEW, IMPRESSIVE BIOGRAPHIES. REVELATION: HE'S HUMAN!

They came to the plays in limos or on Rollerblades, in bright summer colors or basic Beckett black. Inside, they toted books by or about the master. When the curtain rose, their attention was votive; they laughed and sighed and never dared cough. The dangling melodramatic ending of one play elicited a collective gasp, like that of a child hearing a ghost story's tantalizing punch line. At the curtain calls their faces beamed at the actors with rapture and gratitude. In the lobby afterward they bought T shirts reading GATE THEATRE--BECKETT FESTIVAL.

Why, even Samuel Beckett, the Irish pessimist who was...

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