Actors have two choices. First, they have the more or less traditional option in which the actor honors the playwright's text. Or, there is the amorphous, free-form type of play that really exists to highlight the skills of the performer. Judith Thompson's Lion in the Streets is decidedly of the second variety.

Not that it doesn't have a story of sorts. It seems to be about the ghost of a recently murdered young girl (played by Deirdre Atkinson) who visits her old neighborhood and spies on her former neighbors. Crouching in the corners she observes their quarrels, infidelities, confrontations with the past, and their hypocrisies.

In tone, it resembles recent movies such as American Beauty, with its razzing of the middle classes for the banality of their frustrated dreams. In style, it's more like that of Jean-Claude Van Itallie--an ensemble piece in which each member of the troupe enacts several characters in an attempt to chart a whole society, with lots of "body movement" such as crawling on the floor, with some hissing thrown in free of charge.

Ultimately, an evening at Lion is really about the actors and, despite the obviousness of the text, the Vertigo troupe does a fine job. Things start out a little shaky with a somewhat unconvincing turn by Lorraine Bahr as a comforting neighbor, but soon Bahr, in her three successive and very difficult parts, proves to be one of the most versatile members of the seven actor cast, who all do a fantastic job. But then, the play was written with them in mind.

The Russell Street Theater
116 NE Russell Blvd, 306-0870
Thurs-Sat at 8 pm, call for ticket prices