MURDER IN GREEN MEADOWS, Circle Theatre. Douglas Post’s tight little drama begins like updated Updike: two flawed but attractive, prosperous suburban couples become romantically entwined. But then the play turns dark as adultery inspires murder. Post’s theme–evil in the burbs–is not that original. But his decision to show us the murderer’s side of things is inspired. And the plot moves along nicely until Post tries to tie it all up with a conventional punitive ending as unconvincing as it is pat.

When Victory Gardens produced this thriller in 1995, they turned Post’s momentary lapse into the production’s ruling aesthetic, underplaying the psychological terror and overplaying the plot’s unsurprising twists. Circle Theatre’s smaller, edgier production does better at revealing Post’s strengths as a suspense writer. Certainly it helps that the play is being staged in Circle’s tiny second theater, a space so intimate that even if you’re sitting in the last row–the fourth–you feel like you’re onstage yourself. In such a setting even the most subtle gesture pulls us in, as when Joan, the seductive sex-starved housewife, playfully leans back on the couch.

At least two of the four actors–Bethanny Alexander and Bart Petty–really know what they’re doing. Petty in particular is superb as the predatory Thomas. By contrast Erin Noel Grennan is absolutely miscast as the brainy wife whose husband gets killed: are we supposed to believe this fluffy sorority-girl type was once vice president of a publishing house? Nevertheless, director Ty Perry has crafted a production that frequently had me on the edge of my seat.

–Jack Helbig