Waiting For Godot Radiant Theatre at the Interstate Firehouse Cultural Center, 5340 N. Interstate, 502-8261, Thurs-Sat 8 pm, through September 27, $10-$12
Mysteriously bound to a desolate patch of land, the heroes of Beckett's Waiting For Godot can barely remember the previous day, let alone where they are or how they got there. Their only constant is a steadily growing awareness of, and unease at, the entropy of the world around them. It's challenging stuff, which Radiant Theatre's production, as directed by Amy Gray, further complicates via an audience participation twist that is almost assuredly causing the ultra-possessive Beckett to spin in his grave. At the end of both acts of Godot a boy enters the stage to inform the tramps that once again, Godot will not be coming that day. Gray depicts these scenes with a volunteer chosen arbitrarily from the audience, who is then fed his lines via cue cards held up by Estragon. The results are awkward, adding nothing to the power or humor of the play, and thus needlessly cutesy. The production in general suffers from a similar fate.

The bizarrely profound repeat visitor Pozzo (and his slightly scary vegetative slave Lucky) is played here by Luke Dempsey as a gold chains-wearing pimp with a cell phone. As Vladimir, John Heller affects a strange little boy strut, replete with his thumbs stuck cutely through his suspenders. Heller is going to be a fine actor, but his mannerisms here are far too self-aware to be convincing.

Only the seasoned veteran Kevin Michael-Moore escapes the whimsical avalanche. He infuses Estragon with the screechy humor that has made him one of Portland's more popular stand-up comics, but also reveals a refreshing and surprising emotional depth. His Estragon is a haggard neurotic, who grows increasingly and poignantly tense as awareness sets in of his true situation.

Godot is on top of everything else a fun series of sight gags and witty diatribe, and though Michael-Moore and Heller rarely connect, when they do it's sweet and funny, and the final scene reminds you that the ol' pants falling down gag just never gets old. This is Godot light; most of the jokes, but missing the dark claws that, if properly sharpened, will scratch at the back of your eyes. JUSTIN WESCOAT SANDERS III