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Critics’ picks: Theater

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WITNESS UGANDA Griffin Matthews plays himself in this musical treatment of a story drawn from his own life — about his journey to Uganda to help build a school, only to learn the charity behind the project is a sham. The show is a joyous, wrenching experience. The script, which Matthews co-wrote with composer/partner Matt Gould, skips lightly through the preliminaries, all the better to work up to an emotional chokehold. Rousing dance breaks prove a perfect complement to Gould’s richly layered music, which ranges from street calls to a killer gospel choir. Diane Paulus directs this world premiere. Through March 16. American Repertory Theater, at Loeb Drama Center, Cambridge. 617-547-8300, www.americanrepertorytheater.org

DEATH OF A SALESMAN The beauty of Arthur Miller’s 1949 Tony Award and Pulitzer Prize winner is that it indicts the American dream without exonerating the American dreamer. And this Lyric Stage production directed by Spiro Veloudos resists the temptation to make Willy Loman merely the victim of the system that chews him up and spits him out. Ken Baltin as Willy and Paula Plum as his wife, Linda, may shade their characters toward your sympathy, but they never fall into sentimentality, and the rest of the cast is also first rate. Through March 15. Lyric Stage Company, Boston. 617-585-5678, www.lyricstage.com

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