Make us your home page
Instagram

Review: Circle Mirror Transformation a little too inner circle

Cast includes Jim Wicker, Diane Dehn, Kibwe Dorsey, Lizzie Kehoe, Dawn Truax.

Stageworks Theatre

Cast includes Jim Wicker, Diane Dehn, Kibwe Dorsey, Lizzie Kehoe, Dawn Truax.

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 fleming@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8716.

.if you go

Circle Mirror Transformation by Annie Baker continues through March 24 at Stageworks, 1120 E Kennedy Blvd., Tampa. Run time: 1 hour, 40 minutes. $26, $10 tickets a half-hour before curtain for artists, students, seniors and military. (813) 251-8984; stageworkstheatre.org.

Review: Circle Mirror Transformation a little too inner circle 03/14/13 [Last modified: Thursday, March 14, 2013 11:05pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. On the Camino de Santiago, Day 17: Think 11 miles of nothing but straight trail and open, flat fields sounds easy? Think again.

    Travel

    Day 17: Villarmentero de Campos to Lédigos: 33.5 km, 10.25 hours. Total for Days 1-17 = 394 km (245 miles)

  2. Tom Sawyer with a revolver? Twain house has live 'Clue' game

    Attractions

    HARTFORD, Conn. — Was it Tom Sawyer in Samuel Clemens' billiard room with a revolver?

    In this July 14 photo, actor Dan Russell, left, portraying the character Arkansas from Mark Twain's book Roughing it, responds to a question from 10-year-old Emma Connell, center, of Arizona during a "Clue" tour at the Mark Twain House in Hartford, Conn. The tour allows visitors to interact with Twain characters while playing a live-action version of the board game. [AP Photo/Pat Eaton-Robb]
  3. Until this song, Alan Parsons Project stood on much higher ground

    Blogs

    Listening to yesterday's Keats song made me pine for more Alan Parsons Project music and today we dig deeper into their catalogue with Standing On Higher Ground.

  4. Top things to do in Tampa Bay for July 23

    Events

    Marie Antoinette: Freefall 411: A contemporary look at the historic pariah looks at Marie Antoinette through the lens of society's obsession with celebrity. Through August 13. A brief talk prior to the performance provides insight to the production. 1 p.m., show starts at 2 p.m., Freefall Theatre, 6099 Central …

    Lucas Wells as King Louis XVI, left, and Megan Rippey as Marie Antoinette in Freefall Theatre's "Marie Antoinette."
  5. Top things to do in Tampa Bay for July 22

    Events

    Snooty the Manatee's 69th Birthday Bash: Snooty, documented by Guinness World Records as the oldest known manatee in captivity, turns 69 and celebrates with children's games, art activities, cookies, drinks , interaction with Snooty the mascot and reduced price museum admission. 10 a.m., South Florida Museum, 201 …

    Snooty the manatee poses for a photo Thursday morning while three young manatees are unloaded from Lowry Park Zoo in Tampa Thursday morning at the South Florida Museum in Bradenton.
PAUL VIDELA/pvidela@bradenton.com 12/20/07