Theresa (Arwen Anderson), Lauren (Marissa Keltie), Schultz (Robert Parsons), James (L. Peter Callender) and Marty (Julia Brothers) play the improvisational theater game “Circle, Mirror, Transformation” in the Bay Area Premiere of Annie Baker’s Circle Mirror Transformation, now playing at Marin Theatre Company, in co-production with Encore Theatre
CIRCLE MIRROR TRANSFORMATION: Comedy by Annie Baker. Directed by Kip Fagan.
Marin Theatre Company/ Co-production with Encore Theatre Company at Marin Theatre Company, 397 Miller Avenue, Mill Valley, CA 94941. (415) 388-5208 or marintheatre.org. August 2 -26, 2012
CIRCLE MIRROR TRANSFORMATION at MTC misses the mark
Marin Theatre Company’s 45th 2011-2012 season was a resounding success with all six of their productions receiving glowing reviews. Thus their 46th season beginning with Circle Mirror Transformation (CMT) with a star studded cast was received with great expectations. It was not to be even though the ensemble cast of five played it straight displaying great acting. Director Kip Fagan who directed Michael Von Siebenberg Melts Through the Floorboards at this year’s Humana New American Play Festival that bombed in Louisville, may have better served the cast to play it for laughs.
There are laughs, mostly unintentional and few and far between. The decision to produce the two hour play without intermission was probably a wise decision since at the one hour mark many of the audience were looking at their watches.
This is the third play by the much praised Annie Baker to be produced in the Bay Area in the past year, each being very successful. Unfortunately this reviewer missed Body Awareness that had an extended run at the Aurora Theatre but had the pleasure giving The Aliens a rave review for the SF Playhouse production.( http://kedaradourforallevents.blogspot.com/2012/04/aliens-beautifully-staged-at-sf.html)
CMT is one of three plays set in the mythical town of Shirley, Vermont but the author insists that they are not a trilogy. The set up for CMT is based on the need for locals to express themselves by being transformed through improvisations that is the keystone of some drama schools and ridiculed by others. Examples are the “Gibber-view” where one ‘actor’ asks a question in English and another answers in gibberish and if they are good at it we can understand the gibberish. Another is ‘The Mirror’ where the two players imitate “mirror” the others’ movements exactly thus transforming him/herself. Thus the play’s title.
Yes, these techniques are used by Marty (welcome back the talented Julia Brothers) who teaches a six-week Creative Drama class in the Community Center of Shirley, Vermont. She has attracted four eclectic characters who wish to become actors or better actors. There is the vivacious Theresa (a fine Arwen Anderson) a sometimes actress who has broken up with her abusive partner in New York City and is new to the town. Next up is James (an underutilized L. Peter Callender) whose relationship with Marty becomes somewhat clear late in the play. Lauren (a charming Marissa Keltie) is an introverted 16 year old who hasn’t decided to be an actor or a veterinarian. Last but hardly least is Schultz played by the scene stealer, matching Brothers’ performance, Robert Parsons.
The ‘play’ is a series of blackouts some lasting only seconds with many, many pauses that engenders a feeling of ‘let’s get on with it’. The biggest laugh is earned by Brothers when she has asked the students to write down a secret that they would not tell anyone about. When the request is received with reticence her comment, “Trust me guys” brings down the house.
Kedar K. Adour, MD
Courtesy of www.theatreworlinternetmagazine.com