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Director Sean Graney has a knack for amplifying and even distorting a play's subtext, creating a kind of neo-expressionism. But for Peter Shaffer's 1973 psychological drama to work, the subtext must remain hidden: the characters conceal their own motives as they search for others' in this play about a burnt-out psychiatrist, Dr. Dysart, trying to discover why his incommunicative 17-year-old patient, Alan, blinded six horses with a metal spike. From the opening moments of this Hypocrites production, the characters wear their traumas on their sleeves--a particularly problematic strategy for Alan's troubled parents, who would never advertise the depth of their emotional turmoil before the psychiatrist's accusatory gaze. Graney's corral-like design is handsome and efficient, and the performances are committed; the always volatile Kurt Ehrmann is particularly compelling as Dysart. But little intrigue develops, and the play's rich sexual-religious symbolism is obscured by excessive emoting. Through 11/21: Thu-Sat 8 PM, Sun 7 PM. Athenaeum Theatre, second-floor studio theater, 2936 N. Southport, 312-902-1500. $15-$20.

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