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The three people in Adam Bock's "The Typographer's Dream" want to believe they made wise, satisfying career choices, but they're not really so sure about that, or anything, by the end of the play.

This slender, but absorbing, work, which has been effectively staged by Iron Crow Theatre, showcases the writer's gift not just for language, but for speech -- the pauses, repetitions, nervous stutters that are part of everyday conversation.

Bock also understands human nature, the walls and bridges we build, the blinders we put on, the defense mechanisms we adopt. One more thing -- the playwright can be very funny, too.

"The Typographer's Dream" starts off like some sort of oddball panel discussion about professions; the house lights are undimmed, emphasizing the non-theatrical environment (Conor Mulligan designed the set).

Eventually, things look more play-like, but ...

the enhanced sense of intimacy remains as the characters gradually impart information, secrets, advice (not all of it sought or welcomed).

Annalise (Jenny Male) is a Canadian geographer obsessed with boundary lines have emerged on the grizzled face of the earth, and how her chosen field has been cheapened by the way schools blend it into "social studies." Margaret (Sarah Ford Gorman), in librarian clothes and sensible shoes, sounds a little bored by, yet still strangely addicted to, the process of choosing type and seeing it "kiss the paper."

Dave (Steve J. Satta-Fleming) is a stenographer/court reporter terribly proud of each calibrated aspect of his work, unaware that his own personality has become rather like the machine he uses to capture every word in court.

The 75-minute play is fueled not by a traditional narrative, but by linguistic vibrancy and, in a well-timed twist, revelations about how the trio of "-ographers" are connected personally, how various factors threaten their friendship (Dave's unseen boyfriend has a critical part in this).

The three variously challenged souls end up questioning the ways that they are defined by their jobs, at the workplace and beyond, the ways they communicate -- or don't (Dave has a really big problem using personal pronouns). These are not necessarily the deepest of issues, but we've all faced them, and Bock makes them freshly relevant in this imaginative play.

The Iron Crow cast, sturdily directed by Michele Minnick, gets a particular boost from Male's dynamic, finely nuanced work as the ever-so-slightly manic Annalise. Gorman is likewise telling. She captures the mix of timidity and wonder that make Margaret so intriguing; when she goes silent mid-sentence, you can hear the wheels spinning inside her tense, uncertain mind.

Satta seems a little too buttoned-up at times, but he makes Dave a sympathetic soul who, like the others, is trying to cope in a world where words and demarcations matter, but where things unsaid and unsettled turn out to matter more.

"The Typographer's Dream" runs through June 16.


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