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Chris Stezin is the Jimmy Stewart of local theater: so genial and commonplace-good-looking and soft-spoken that you can forgive his characters a few quirks. He doesn’t so much disappear into John Walch’s one-man Circumference of a Squirrel—about a man’s love-hate thing with the family Sciuridae—as make it his own, to the point that you’d be inclined to call him Chester if you ran into him in McPherson Square. Chester begins his story in such an urban park, watching a squirrel carrying a bagel, and that sight proves a jumping-off point for a reminiscence that includes family tragicomedy—think Jean Shepherd meets Sam Shepard—lost romance, and more symbols than are really necessary. In the Charter Theatre’s production, Thom Seymour’s efficient set and subtle lighting design and Keith Bridges’ graceful blocking help Stezin move back and forth through time, from a childhood incident in which his father is injured by a furry yard pest, through a grad-school romance with a woman his dad is poised to hate as much as squirrels, to his at-loose-ends present. Along the way, there are tire swings, Christmas wreaths, wedding rings, doughnuts, and literal as well as metaphoric Life Savers—a series of rings for Chester and his father to grasp. Stezin—the company’s associate artistic director and the actor/writer whose Charter scripts include What Dogs Do and the Helen Hayes-nominated Hoboken Station—handles Walch’s sometimes outsize symbology and rich poetry with his usual down-to-earth accessibility. In uttering such gems as the description of a trapped squirrel, “eyes as wide open as the two O’s in the word ‘horror,’” he never pauses to congratulate himself; rather, he continues his audience chat-up with as natural a presence as the monologue structure allows. Even when the imagery feels forced—a dying man watching Wheel of Fortune—Stezin just experiences his way through it. And even when the script goes way over into creepiness, with an anecdote that suggests either a bout of magic realism on Walch’s part or a case of psychosis on Chester’s, Stezin’s utter sincerity lets it go on by; if we don’t really believe what he’s saying, we believe he believes it. During a halting tale of a lengthy death, Stezin pauses at one point to sit down, and only a critic would notice that this actor is better at poising himself on a chair and drinking a bottle of juice than a lot of board-treaders are at Hamlet. It’s a mesmerizing performance.—Pamela Murray Winters