What to say! The play was intense to say the least. Simple yet effective, the Circle Transformation is a must go. Created by Annie Baker and first performed in 2009, the play is about five people living in Vermont; Marty (Molly Gearen), Theresa (Imogen Gibb), Lauren (Eleanor Greene), James (Conor Hillard) and Schultz (Phil Psarrakos), who, as the weekly theatre classes pass on, reveal themselves and start ‘entangling’ their lives with the theatre class itself.
The use of games and connection-building workshops throughout the play makes the audience comprehend the actors’ development as they build close relationships with one another. As the play starts, a theatre exercise of number counting emphasises the growing tension and acts as a tool to introduce the characters and the story. Indeed, through such means, the spectator quickly understands that most of them are not professional actors and possibly seek different experiences within the class. Moreover, one character already imposes themselves; Marty. With her tone, authoritative yet soft, we immediately see her as the leader of the group. As it unravels, the students would improve to a great extent at the exercise testifying the connection that developed between them. It is further through the different acting games that we see more of Lauren’s personality as a hardworking and pressured teen, impatient about attaining what she seeks: a great acting career.
The use of theatre games or workshops furthers our learning about the characters and their vision of the other. This is particularly striking when we see a student presenting another; thus building on the connection between the members of the class. In the early weeks, James presents his wife Marty and one quickly grasps James as an authoritative, frustrated and somewhat angry figure. The audience later sees how his relationship with an alcoholic and ‘military-man’ father impacted his life. Such parenthood would impact him to the extent that his relationships all fail to an extent.
Molly Gearen, who plays Marty, James’ wife, seems to be in many ways different from her husband. Marty, on the other hand, listens to everyone, is compassionate and tries to understand the feelings of everyone. One scene is particularly striking in that sense as Schultz discusses the possibility of her having ‘night-terrors’. James soon storms in the room and imposes himself and unaware of his wife’s trauma. Then, it seems that only sadness ensues...
In the same workshop of presenting others, we also understand how Schultz has fallen in love with Theresa. Indeed he uses words such as ‘passionate’, ‘graceful’ and ‘alive’ throughout; testifying his affection towards a very chatty and generalising former New Yorker actress. Phil Psarrakos’s Schultz is an amazing character within the play as he seems to embody one’s problem to get over a hard moment in life, our feeling of being lost in an obscure world.
Directed by Sam Kan and Produced by Izzy Caldwell, the Circle Mirror Transformation is fantastic. The play stroke me as one that is so relevant to our daily lives and relationships. Not only fun and relaxing but also thought-provoking and helpful for us in our respective, complicated yet beautiful lives.