Maybe it's her acting background (she started with ACT in 1969, and was most recently seen here as poor abused Madame Raquin in the Aurora's Thérese Raquin), but Joy Carlin really directs the best out of her actors. Subtle and sure, she stages conflict and reconciliation equally well. Which has been very obvious at the Aurora lately, from squeezing sweetness out of Mamet (The Old Neighborhood) to getting a nonclichéd story about an alcoholic Irishman out of Conor McPherson's Dublin Carol. While Arthur Miller can be a little formal, Carlin's hand at the tiller of The Price made yet another one of the plays in which Miller deals with brotherhood resound with life. Her blocking is direct and unadorned, leaving room for pauses and nuances that would be lost under more frenetic direction. While other directors set themselves logistical and visual challenges this year -- Tony Taccone's gorgeous Brundibar, with its massive chorus of children; Grant Rosen's fantastic West Side Story at DLOC, with its masses of Sharks and Jets; Daniels and Moscone at CalShakes with their mass of actors, period -- Carlin went after smaller, more intimate stories and really opened them up.