Seating capacity has increased modestly, from 170 to 253. There are only four more rows than in the old house, and the first row in the new theater brings the audience even closer to the stage than was the case before.

"I don't feel overwhelmed by this space," Tresselt said. "It still feels very intimate to me."

Bruce Randolph Nelson, a longtime Everyman artist who is in the "August: Osage County" cast, had the same reaction after starting rehearsals there.

"I think what's most impressive is that they have continued the direct connection with the audience that we had before," the actor said. "The stage took some adjustment for the actors. It meant speaking a little differently, being crisp with consonants, because, for the first time, we have height. But we don't have to speak out more."

The intimacy at the Charles Street facility was mitigated by the presence of several thick columns that presented sightline problems. No such drawback in the new theater.

The former venue had other issues, including too few restrooms, especially for women, and a single, tight lobby. In the new building, in addition to a generous restroom allotment, there are two airy lobbies and some "conversation nooks." There's a full-service bar, too.

The mezzanine lobby, with its high front windows ("We wanted people inside to relate to the front facade, to be able to see the Corinthian column tops," Cho said), has room for cozy tables and a baby grand piano. It looks like a chic urban lounge.

"The lobby is not just a place to pass through on the way to the show, but a destination place," Nelson said. "I'll be visiting the bar after showtimes."

Before performances, patrons can drink and nosh on food purchased from Charm City Gourmet's food truck parked outside (table service will be available for those disinclined to order food on the street). There are also plans to provide the option of crab cake deliveries from Faidley's Seafood at nearby Lexington Market.

Throughout the building, decorative sconces dot the walls, each with a shade emblazoned with faces of the actors who have performed with Everyman.

"They light up, and there's my mouth," Nelson said, adding with laugh: "For the actor who thinks it's all about him, that's very exciting."

The Everyman building includes an expansive rehearsal room on the second floor, soundproofed so one production can be rehearsed there while a main-stage performance is taking place directly below. Lancisi envisions using the rehearsal room as a black box theater in the future (it will be put into service for this week's gala parties and meals).

A room with 30-foot high, exposed brick walls on the third floor could become yet another rehearsal/performance space one day.

The administrative area on the second floor emphasizes the family atmosphere the company has long cultivated. Lancisi and Tresselt have offices just outside the rehearsal hall, with windowed doors that open up to a common break room. In a nearby room, personal lockers for the actors have been installed, a few feet from where staffers have their desks.

"One of the greatest compliments I got from Vinny [Lancisi] was when he said, 'It feels like home.' That makes me happy as an architect," Cho said.

It's a home without a mortgage. The building construction is paid for, and the company is $120,000 shy of the $2 million reserve fund that is part of $18 million renovation project's budget.

"It's wonderful to have someone invest $18 million next door," the Hippodrome's Daniel said. "They didn't move into the neighborhood with hat in hand. They come with assets and benefits. And they're so eminently likable and wonderful to work with. It is wonderful to have a partner in crime like Vinny."

Speaking of crime, although there has been no major uptick in crime on the West Side, recent incidents, including an early morning shooting outside a nightclub in October, have added to a perception of an unsafe neighborhood.

"People were very vocal about that when the theater project started," Tresselt said. "But the subscription numbers do not indicate that anybody went away. We have more subscribers that last year. We're just under 5,000; the goal is 5,200."

With the theater company bringing its audiences into the local mix, the neighborhood could change considerably over the next few years. In addition to the Hippodrome, the area also includes the EMP Collective, an edgy venue for contemporary artists and musicians.