Sunday, October 04, 2009

circle mirror transformation

"circle mirror transformation" at Playwrights Horizons, October 3, 2009

The world premiere of Annie Baker's latest play, "circle mirror transformation" is now in previews at Playwrights Horizons. In it, middle-aged Marty (Dierdre O'Connell) conducts a six-week acting workshop at the community center in Shirley, Vermont. this very small town only generates a class of five, including Marty's GGG economics professor husband James (Peter Friedman), the middle-aged, newly divorced and lonely Schultze (Reed Birney), awkward high school student Lauren (Tracee Chimo) and new-to-town twenty-something actress Theresa (Heidi Schreck), each carrying a bit of emotional baggage.

For anyone who has ever suffered through the unbearable theatre games (a la Viola Spolin) in an acting class, Ms. Baker has cleverly incorporated some of the worst offenders into her script, neatly tucking in both character exposition and a couple of interesting plot points. One that I particularly enjoyed was having each character deliver an impromptu monologue talking about themselves as a classmate - each doubly revealing.

It's a terrific ensemble piece, smoothly and sweetly directed by Sam Gold. I'm guessing that both Mr. Gold and Ms. Baker have suffered through many of the afore-mentioned theatre games, which are handled with respect and to hilarious results.

Ms. O'Connell's Marty is a classic small-town, studied poser of a bohemian, from the curly mop of hair tamed by the omnipresent scarf, to the firm belief that she actually has a clue about what she thinks she's teaching. Mr. Friedman's James grins and bears it all, hoping to hold onto his marriage. Mr. Birney's Schultze shows every moment's pain of a man dumped, without understanding what happened to his marriage, or how. As Lauren, Ms. Chimo has mastered the rolling eyes, flabbergasted disbelief, and uncertainty of a disdainful teenager wanting something more, but really unsure what it is she wants (even though she thinks it is to be an actress). Ms. Schreck's Theresa is sweet, yet callow, unaware that even the slightest flirtation can wreak havoc on a man under any emotional strain.

David Zinn's simple institutional studio/classroom set and no-nonsense costumes serve well, along with Mark Barton's straightforward lighting.

Starwatch: Jay O. Sanders in the audience.

Don't forget the discount ticket offer here.

UPDATE: Offer extended until October 13, 2009

(photos by Joan Marcus)

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