In all the best ways, "Circle Mirror Transformation" is a rare theatrical bird, like nothing you’ve seen before.
Set in a small, artsy Vermont town, Annie Baker’s play depicts five characters from different walks of life who find themselves thrown together in an adult acting class and experience powerful revelatory things over the course of six weeks.
The Actors Theatre Playhouse production, which runs through Aug. 31, brings the play wonderfully to life, and because it all takes place in a community very much like ours, perhaps holds even more of a mirror up to us than Baker’s play would elsewhere.
In dozens of short scenes that show the four actors and their teacher engaged in theater games, exercises, improv bits and snippets of conversation, "Circle Mirror Transformation" has a unique rhythm -- short, quick-changing, lively, yet totally compelling. Much of what happens on stage has nothing to do with what’s being said and everything to do with what’s being done. There are revealing moments of painful, awkward silence, nervous tension and meaningful glances. We see the characters being drawn out in front of us, revealing themselves gently but powerfully over two hours.
And therein lies the most marvelous aspect of Baker’s play. I have never been to a play where the hand of the playwright was less evident. She has created this world of an acting class and let the actors reveal themselves to us seemingly without having anything to do with it.
Credit for this must go to the capable Actors Theatre Playhouse cast, under the direction of Josh Moyse. Called on, constantly, to act without words and create characters through gesture and expression to a higher degree than other plays, the Actors Theatre cast does a marvelous job. You can’t help but get caught up in their lives, their hopes and dreams, their desires, their failures and foibles.
In a true ensemble piece, Actors Theatre gets fine acting from Pat Langille, Richard A. Epstein, Jennifer Moyse, Peter Eisenstadter and young Maia Gilmour, who continues ATP’s recent trend of giving New England Youth Theatre performers another stage to develop their craft.
"Circle Mirror Transformation" has sweetness and sadness, plenty of humor and some deep revelations. And it does all this uniquely, thanks to Baker’s script, and ATP’s handling of it.
Performances continue on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays through Aug. 31 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $12 on Thursdays and $15 on Fridays and Saturdays. Reservations are recommended by calling the toll-free box office at 877-666-1855. For information, visit www.ATPlayhouse.org.
-- Jon Potter