Wednesday, January 17, 2018
Stage

Review: Circle Mirror Transformation a little too inner circle

TAMPA — Theater people like Circle Mirror Transformation because virtually the entire play is set in an acting class at a community center in Vermont. It is, playwright Annie Baker says in a note to the script, "hopefully, a strange little naturalistic meditation on theater and life and death and the passing of time."

Stageworks and director Karla Hartley assembled an excellent cast to play the teacher and her four students, and they give a performance clearly inspired by their own experience as actors. How nonactors in the audience will respond is another thing, as Baker's play can seem awfully slight and inconsequential.

Circle Mirror Transformation — a pair of mirrors and a rubber yoga ball mainly make up the set — opens with all five characters lying on their backs on the studio floor in a circle, counting in random fashion, one at a time: "One ... two ... three ... four ... five ... six," and then the teacher, Marty (Dawn Truax in a smart, warmhearted portrayal), tells them to start again when two people in the class count out "seven" at the same time. This is repeated throughout the play, which also includes a game of "explosion" tag, free association, improvisation and other actorly exercises.

"I don't get it," says Lauren (Lizzie Kehoe), a teenager, during one of the drills. "What's the point of counting to ten?"

Not a bad question, but Marty is ready with the answer, no doubt having been asked many times through the years: "The point is being able to be totally present. To not get in your head and second-guess yourself. Or the people around you."

Actors deserve much credit for what they do to be able to inhabit a role persuasively, and that's an important aspect of Baker's play. With the precise language and rhythms and silences of her script, she captures the touchy-feely, new age vibe of a lot of the theater world, but Circle Mirror Transformation (winner of the Obie Award for best new American play in 2010) founders on its hackneyed storyline.

Naturally, emotional complications crop up in the class, including an apparent fling between Schultz (Kibwe Dorsey) and Theresa (Diane Dehn), as well as some sort of murky conflict between James (Jim Wicker) and Marty, his wife, despite their being a "cool couple." It all gets too oblique. For example, when Marty convenes a game in which everyone writes down "a secret that you've never, ever told anyone," and then they're disclosed anonymously, at least one secret — someone's addiction to Internet porn — comes out of the blue. It left me wondering what I'd missed.

Hartley did it all with Circle Mirror Transformation, not only directing but also designing sets, lights and sound, everything but the costumes, designed by Melinda Kajando. Music between the scenes includes Patty Larkin, Regina Spektor, Vedera, He Is We and other indie pop.

John Fleming can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8716.

Comments
Steve Martin and Martin Short talk touring together and ‘newfangled old-fashioned’ variety show

Steve Martin and Martin Short talk touring together and ‘newfangled old-fashioned’ variety show

It’s barely been a year since Steve Martin and Martin Short last brought their roadshow to town. But there was never a doubt in their minds they’d be back."We thought — and I seriously mean this — we’ve got to play Florida more." Martin said in a pho...
Published: 01/17/18
Tampa Rep’s ‘Gnit’ is a sharp commentary on narcissism in the age of selfies

Tampa Rep’s ‘Gnit’ is a sharp commentary on narcissism in the age of selfies

By JULIE GARISTOTimes CorrespondentTAMPA — Tampa Repertory Theatre’s Gnit strikes gold for theatergoers who appreciate deadpan wit, clever wordplay and incisive commentary on the human condition.First produced in 2013, the retread of a Scandinavian c...
Published: 01/16/18
A play about Miami’s Cocaine Cowboys is becoming a reality

A play about Miami’s Cocaine Cowboys is becoming a reality

MIAMI — The idea seemed outlandish, maybe even impossible at the time: a one-man play about Miami’s infamous Cocaine Cowboys of the 1980s. Some 15 years ago, the Miami-raised Billy Corben was deep into research for what would become Coca...
Published: 01/15/18
Updated: 01/16/18

Review: Show Palace’s Pippin daring and dangerous

HUDSON —If you saw the musical Pippin when it first hit Broadway in 1972, or a high school drama club version, or even a touring company rendition a decade ago, it’s not exactly the Pippin you’ll see if you’re wise enough to go see the spectacular mo...
Published: 01/15/18
With Zev Buffman at the creative end, Ruth Eckerd Hall brings Mickey Spillane’s Mike Hammer to the stage

With Zev Buffman at the creative end, Ruth Eckerd Hall brings Mickey Spillane’s Mike Hammer to the stage

An actor famous for playing a radio station manager will star this week in the world premiere of a radio play.Mike Hammer: Encore for Murder brings Gary Sandy, who played Andy Travis on WKRP in Cincinnati, to Ruth Eckerd Hall. And the star power was ...
Published: 01/12/18
Updated: 01/13/18
Here’s how to sing along to the entire Hamilton soundtrack at a Tampa library

Here’s how to sing along to the entire Hamilton soundtrack at a Tampa library

If you’re already singing along to the entire Hamilton soundtrack alone, why not meet like-minded folks and do it together?A Hamilton singalong goes down tonight at the Jimmie B. Keel Regional Library in Tampa. Fans will gather to sing the entire — y...
Published: 01/11/18
Updated: 01/12/18
Beacon 2018 brings professional dancers and choreographers to the Palladium

Beacon 2018 brings professional dancers and choreographers to the Palladium

ST. PETERSBURGThe dancers kept moving, spinning, pausing for arabesques or stretches. Over most of a December afternoon at the Mirror Lake Studios, they rarely stopped, whether rehearsing specific routines or not.Choreographer Lauren Ree Slone also m...
Published: 01/11/18
Canadian cops hunt former Opera Tampa maestro Daniel Lipton in connection with sexual assault

Canadian cops hunt former Opera Tampa maestro Daniel Lipton in connection with sexual assault

Daniel Lipton, Opera Tampa’s most recent artistic director, is being sought by Canadian authorities in connection with a sexual assault.The alleged assault took place in the late 1980s, a woman the Times is not naming told the Hamilton Police Service...
Published: 01/10/18
Updated: 01/11/18
Master chorale and visiting artistic director Doreen Rao part ways

Master chorale and visiting artistic director Doreen Rao part ways

TAMPA — The Master Chorale of Tampa Bay has ended its relationship with visiting artistic director Doreen Rao. The announcement on Tuesday continues an ongoing uncertainty about leadership for the chorale, which has not had a permanent artistic direc...
Published: 01/09/18
Updated: 01/10/18
Show Palace features Pippin

Show Palace features Pippin

HUDSON — The Show Palace Dinner Theatre opens 2018 with a local production of the 1972 Broadway musical, Pippin, which runs evenings and matinees Jan. 13 through Feb. 18. The ensemble performance features an acrobatic troupe led by a charismatic "Lea...
Published: 01/09/18