BY LINDSAY HARRIS-FRIEL Step into the cozy, welcoming Murph’s Bar at 202 East Girard. You’ll find it’s been commandeered by Applied Mechanics, a theater company that “creates original performance experiments in the environmental-installation-parallel-narrative style.” Sounds lofty? Get a drink and slide into a seat, or find a good corner. The characters are everywhere and their conversations are contagious. The circus has burnt down, the big cats have been sold for food, and all that’s left are the performers, drinking, reminiscing, planning their futures or burying their dreams. Following a character will give you more information, but staking out a space and letting things happen is good too, provided you’re on top of the paying-attention game. Language is an experimental tool; not only will you have to learn spoken circus lingo on the fly, but also their sign language. Rebecca Wright and Maria Shaplin have woven a fluid and tragic tapestry, devising performance via collaboration with a team of six excellent actors. The histories are complex and detailed, their futures either grim or brilliant, depending on your (literal) perspective. Most remarkable is Matthew Rohner, whose Old Clown travels from sweet and pitiable through sinister to self-destruction. Bob Stineman anchors the wild rumpus; his bartender is the earth to the circus folks’ air, fire and water, but it’s his fluidity that keeps the others moving toward their dreams when the Ringmaster, the menacing and elegant Jessica Hurley, would trap them in their memories. And once again, Wendy Staton’s caramel voice and sweet smile will root you and move you. The young characters who can be saved are tender and heartbreaking; Anjoli Santiago’s Roustabout is a kitten you want to cuddle, Jill Horan and Michael Choiacky’s Trapeze Sister and Trapeze Brother are pretty, idealistic treasures you want to keep from touching the ground, and John Jarboe’s Young Clown is a roller-coaster. The tragedy is that one generation can save the other, but salvation isn’t reciprocal. Are bargains struck or battles won or lost? It’s Hard Times At The Camera Blanca will make you ask a lot of questions about complacency and tough love.