Company One, SpeakEasy and Huntington make us LoVermont

‘The Aliens’ have landed in beautiful silence

Company One should thank playwright Annie Baker for the stage direction that one-third of her play “The Aliens” should be silent. In that silence, the already impressive troupe has found a heretofore unseen maturity that elevates their work to a level that might otherwise have taken them another 20 years to attain.

“The Aliens” is Company One’s finest work to date. It’s a beautifully written piece that slowly draws you into a world of chaos, heartache and, ironically, hope. It does so with great levity and crisp, intelligent wit. And once you’re there, it’s often silent, but it’s in that silence you find the joy of this production.

There’s no agenda, take-home message or arbiter telling you right from wrong here. It’s a just a simple tale of two down-and-out 30-somethings hanging out near the dumpster of a coffee shop in Shirley, Vt.

Nael Nacer is superb as Jasper, the aspiring author and Bukowski devotee, nicely capturing both the hope and pathos of the drifter. As KJ, Alex Pollock delivers an impeccable turn crossing the line between stoner and mental illness with great authenticity.

Jacob Brandt is sheer perfection as the awkward burgeoning teen who’s enticed by the promise of friendship. If his delivery of “If I Had a Hammer” doesn’t put a lump in your throat, check your pulse.

Director Shawn LaCount seems to have found the key to life in Shirley. You may not want to live here, but it’s a fascinating visit.

‘The Aliens’
Through Nov. 20

SpeakEasy is all about Awareness

“Body Awareness” is the opposite of “The Aliens,” in that Baker should thank SpeakEasy Stage Company for what they’ve done with it.

In lesser hands, this tale of a lesbian couple whose lives are turned upside down by a visiting artist could easily be rendered cliché. But under the impeccable directorial eye of Paul Daigneault,  it’s anything but.

Four flawless performances make this journey such a delight: Adrianne Krstansky is so convincing as Phyllis, an arrogant, angry, man-hating academic, you could easily get lost in her irritating chaos and become oblivious to the fact that you’re witnessing one of the most stunning performances you’ll ever see.

As her partner Joyce, local fave Paula Plum delivers with a subtlety and perfect attention to detail that even something as mundane as cutting carrots feels fascinating.  

Gregory Pember beautifully captures both the sexual awkwardness of 19-year-old Jared and his struggle with Asperger’s syndrome. Another actor might veer into overacting, but he is sheer perfection in his authentic portrayal of the struggles.

Richard Snee, the visiting artist who takes nude photos of women, is at his best when offering paternal advice to Jared with such charm and grace you might feel the urge to ask a question or two of your own.

Even in the world of live theater, this kind of synchronistic magic is a rare treat to behold.

‘Body Awareness’
Through Nov. 20

‘Circle Mirror’ doesn’t go anywhere

It’s easy to tell who the theater people are in the audience of the Huntington Theatre Company’s current production, “Circle Mirror Transformation.” They laugh in all the right places and beam fondly at the memory of actually having played the seemingly silly little theater games unfolding onstage.

For everyone else, the experience is more “nice” than moving. It’s not a bad production, really, it just moves slowly, going nowhere for long periods of time.

Sure, the theater games are a slightly different twist, but they’re more fun to play than to watch. And, yes, the members of the talented ensemble do deliver solid performances, eliciting laughter along the way. But getting there sometimes feels like an endless loop, culminating in a final scene that feels like an afterthought when no other resolution could be found.

In a nutshell, a group of people take an acting class at a community center in Shirley, Vt. They include a former actress who just got out of a bad relationship, a needy, recently divorced man, a teen with aspirations to be cast in her high school’s production of “West Side Story” and a seemingly solid man who has a few secrets of his own.

Over the course of six weeks, and as a result of doing the class exercises, each person’s truth unfolds, epiphanies fly and lives change dramatically.

But it’s slow-going and the only relief you get along the way is the superb performance of Marie Polizzano as Lauren, the awkward teen who speaks the truth because she doesn’t know any better. Her palpable exasperation with the process is easy to understand.

‘Circle Mirror Transformation’
Through Nov. 14

All plays at Calderwood Pavilion at the BCA
527 Tremont St., Boston, MBTA: Orange Line to Back Bay
$15-$65, 617-933-8600


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