“Actress,” Reviewed: Real Life is Her Stage.

Brandy Burre, at home in 'Actress.' (Cinema Guild)

Brandy Burre, at home in ‘Actress.’ (Cinema Guild)

“This is my creative outlet now,” says Brandy Burre in Robert Greene’s documentary Actress (not rated), amid a domestic tableau that’s striking in its mundane normalcy. A few years back Burre was a working actress with a recurring role on the acclaimed TV series “The Wire,” and after that success she took a break from the job to pursue another vocation: She became a full-time, stay-at-home mom.

But the film – which sees its regional premiere with a one-night-only screening Tuesday, January 13 at the Little Theatre in Rochester – isn’t called Full-Time, Stay-at-Home Mom. Burre’s devotion to her children is evident, as is her plaintive itch to return to acting. Greene’s film assays her longing to get back into the game, both in terms of what she does and how she does it: We see her modeling for a new set of headshots and tentatively contemplating upcoming audition opportunities, but we also see her incorporating a certain level of performance even in those tasks – a dramatic tilt of the head, an artful hand gesture, a longing gaze steeped in meaning. There’s a camera right here, right now, and she’s the object of its affections.

That sense of layered self-awareness injects Actress with a strain of performance art, and gives the doc remarkable depth. It’s the story of a woman who, at 40, faces an uphill climb to get back into the Hollywood game; but it’s also an exploration of what it means to be an actor in the first place, and the instinctive dynamic that exists between actor and audience. Burre can play Theresa D’Agostino on “The Wire,” but she’s also playing Brandy Burre, in a way, as she putters around the house with her children and struggles in her relationship with their father. Meanwhile, she’s definitely playing to Greene’s camera – it’s not difficult to envision this as a feature-length audition tape. Where does the performer end and the performance begin?

Greene is content to tee up that question rather than seek obvious answers. He’s acknowledged in interviews that he knows Burre socially, and believed her story would make for an interesting film – and he keeps himself and his queries firmly off-camera, giving his subject the sole spotlight. Actress is a stirring portrait of self-absorption and ego, but also a plaintive study of creative longing and the ineffable sadness that accompanies the fear that one’s best professional days may be past. More than anything, it gives weight to the notion that while Hollywood may distinguish between lead roles and supporting roles, in reality we’re each the star of our own life story.