'Levitation' is buoyed by fine acting and the author's talent for humor

Levitation Play by Timothy Mason. Directed by B. Rodney Marriott.

Timothy Mason has made his local debut at the Circle Repertory Company with the premiere of his touching genre play about meteors, memories, and ghosts.

''Levitation'' is set in the year 1979. Disillusioned 29-year-old Joe Dahl comes home to Minneapolis from New York, where he has earned his living as a newspaper headline writer and spent his spare time writing morbid plays. On his first night back, Joe returns from a dance at 2:30 a.m. and is surprised when his father appears from the darkness of the garden, where he has been quietly scanning the August skies for meteor showers.

Mr. Mason extends the conventional limits of time and mortality to serve the supernatural aims of his play. ''Levitation'' assembles the living, the dead, and those who exist in memory. Joe (Ben Siegler) is challenged in one way or another by his parents (Michael Higgins and Lenka Peterson), his confessedly do-gooder sister and her son (Trish Hawkins and Eric Schiff), the homosexual friend (Bruce McCarty) he deserted in New York, a grade school teacher (Helen Stenborg) from his father's childhood, and aviation pioneer Orville Wright (Matthew Lewis).

A piece of make-believe that might have become cloying and even pretentious is relieved by Mason's sincerity, light touch, and ear for the comic overtones of everyday conversation. Miss Stenborg's endearing schoolteacher contributes something very special to the exemplary performance staged by B. Rodney Marriott. The company gathered on the Dahls' front porch responds to the title's implications of buoyancy and to the more literal ''phenomenon or illusion of maintaining or moving heavy objects, as the human body, in the air without support'' (to quote Webster).

With the exception of Joe - whose depression and lack of commitment seem more self-induced than outwardly motivated - Mason's characters have in their own ways responded affirmatively to the challenges of life. The author projects the sense of affirmation in a mood piece of quality and accomplishment.

David Potts's white clapboard housefront setting features a generous porch, nestling shrubs, a patch of lawn, and the suggestion of shade trees from which the first bird of morning delivers its welcoming song. ''Levitation'' was costumed by Laura Crow and lighted by Dennis Parichy.

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