Cosi, Circle Theatre. One of the principal characters in this comedy is described in the first scene as a “natural energizer”–a phrase that could also describe actor John Simmons, who plays the role with such comic flair he routinely steals the show. Roy is the dominant personality in a cast of insane-asylum inhabitants experimenting with theater as therapy–an egotistical enthusiast who believes himself an artiste thwarted by amateurs yet is determined to aim for the stars. It’s Roy, not unassuming director Louis–a recent university graduate and halfhearted radical played by Aaron Burns–who decides the group should perform Mozart’s Cosi fan Tutte despite the fact that the cast doesn’t sing or know any Italian.

Directed with wit by Todd C. Cornils, this play is more than just another cheap shot at the bumbling efforts of inexperienced actors. Aussie playwright Louis Nowra offers some passing commentary on radical politics and Australia’s role in the Vietnam war, which provides the play’s backdrop. He also says something real and funny about “crazy” people, providing entertaining, at times poignant portraits of a devoted yet aggressive romantic (Elizabeth Kelly), a boisterous and crass pyromaniac (Jim Wooldridge), an erratic lithium addict (Jon Steinhagen) who’s more a fan of Wagner than Mozart, and a precise-minded woman (Ann Followill) who seeks to establish a clear line between reality and illusion.

–Jenn Goddu