Circle Mirror Transformation

Annie Baker's Circle Mirror Transformation, under Andrea Allen's sensitive direction, delivers dozens of gentle, pleasingly human moments via the gimmick of a small-town community-theater class. The extraordinarily good acting that underlies the amateur acting makes this pastiche of awkward nano-scenes engaging, despite its generally low stakes. As the four students and their hobbyist teacher Marty (Gretchen Krich) grope toward self-discovery through drama exercises, the only adversary is their own resistance to the process. In the six-week duration of the class (nearly two hours for us, with no intermission), couples form and dissolve, memories are dredged up, and truths are disclosed. Allen doles out the quirks like Halloween candy to each character. Teenage Lauren (the ravishing Anastasia Higham, in her first pro role) is all involuted angles—even her toes fold under her feet trying to hide. Spastically extroverted thirtysomething Theresa (Elizabeth Raetz), a former professional in New York, strikes poses constantly, well aware of her magnetism. As the recently divorced Schultz, Michael Patten again proves himself a specialist in humanizing wooden characters; his befuddled student is like a man who wakes from a coma on Mars. MARGARET FRIEDMAN (See Margaret's full review.)

Wednesdays-Sundays. Starts: Oct. 21. Continues through Nov. 20, 2011

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