ashland.news
July 24, 2024

Review: ‘Circle Mirror Transformation’ makes audiences think

Circle Mirror Transformation
Kjerstine Anderson's character, Theresa, right, confronts Schultz (Gregory Linington) while James (Jeffrey King) and Marty (Vilma Silva) watch and Lauren (Thilini Dissanayake) reacts in the foreground in a scene from "Circle Mirror Transformation." Rogue Theater Company photo
September 21, 2023

A superb cast led by some OSF favorites and a script by a Pulitzer Prize winner deliver humor alongside uncomfortable insights

By Lee Juillerat for Ashland.news

“Circle Mirror Transformation,” the new offering by the Rogue Theater Company, is a play that generates a range of emotions. It’s a play that is at times humorous but it’s also uncomfortably insightful.

Set in a small rehearsal space at a community center in Shirley, Vermont, the one-act play features five actors four of them participants in a theater workshop acting class and their instructor. It’s a mishmash of people participating, and often reluctantly and emotionally exposing themselves, in what seems a six-week group therapy session.

Veteran OSF actors Jeffrey King and Vilma Silva portray a married couple, James and Marty in “Circle Mirror Transformation.” Rogue Theater Company photo

Things happen in “Mirror.” What some have termed “emotional fault lines” are exposed as members of the group reveal their inner, often concealed, selves to the others and, more significant, to themselves.

Marty, the teacher, is married to one of the students, James. The other students are Theresa, a flirty former actress; Schultz, a recently divorced carpenter; and Lauren, a soon-to-be high school junior who wants to focus on learning about acting.

Written by Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Annie Baker, the play intentionally involves a rather dysfunctional group of amateur actors. Except for Lauren, none seem seriously devoted to being actors. As the play develops at Baker’s intentionally slow pace with frequent pauses the things that happen shape the play’s narrative. One of those happenings takes place when the emotionally vulnerable Schultz is attracted to the flirtatious Theresa. He later learns she has a history of manipulative relationships with older men. When Theresa ends the relationship, Schultz is quietly but obviously devastated and bitter. As in much of the play, his emotions are exposed through silences and body language as unvoiced anger.

The acting class portrayed in the play works on a theatrical exercise in “Circle Mirror Transformation.” Rogue Theater Company photo

In her program notes, “Mirror” director Robynn Rodriguez explains the silences as intention. She regards the play as “a meditation on what it is to open oneself up to the challenge of trying something new.… Being present in our lives is exceedingly difficult. Students of theater spend years perfecting the art of being present, as they try to achieve one single moment of truth. What attracted me to (“Mirror”) is its courageous silence.”

“Circle Mirror Transformation” works because of its superb cast, including Oregon Shakespeare Festival veterans Vilma Silva as Marty and Jeffrey King as James, Gregory Linington as Schultz and Kjerstine Anderson as Theresa, along with Thilini Dissanayake, a recent Southern Oregon University graduate with a degree in theater performance, as Lauren. All five inhabit their characters.

The deets
The Rogue Theater Company’s production of “Circle Mirror Transformation” is being offered Wednesdays through Sundays at 1 p.m. through Oct. 1 indoors at Grizzly Peak Winery. The play premiered in October 2009 and received a 2010 Obie Award for best new American play. For ticket information visit roguetheatercompany.com.

Because the play is staged in a warehouse room with limited seating at Grizzly Peak Winery, the sparse set allows audiences to focus on the actors, on what they do and don’t say. During a talkback after a performance, Rodriguez said a key to the play is “what is not being said.” There are, she explained, different kinds of silences, including specific and wounded silences. Because of its intimate setting, audiences are attuned to what is and isn’t being said.

“Mirror” moves quickly with 26 short scenes separated by fading or blackout lights. That, along with the nonverbal communication and minimalistic staging means there are no special effects that might distract audiences from focusing on what is and is not said. Audiences are involved with the characters, some with dealing with evolving emotional struggles, others forging clumsily but positively ahead.

The play’s staging and script are rich with careful detail. But it’s the performances of its real-life actors that make “Mirror” interesting and provocative. “Circle Mirror Transformation” It’s not a play that audiences will necessarily leave joyful and that’s intentional. “Circle Mirror Transformation” is a play to take home and think about.

Email freelance writer Lee Juillerat at 337lee337@charter.net.

Picture of Jim

Jim

Related Posts...

Ashland New Plays Festival announces October lineup

Four plays among 350 submitted to the Ashland New Plays Festival will be performed during the group’s 2024 Fall Festival this October. The playwrights will be in Ashland for a week of readings, development, and collaboration and will present their plays from Oct. 16 to 20.

Read More »

Theater named to honor Richard ‘Dick’ Hay

The newly named Rogue Theater Company theater, The Richard L. Hay Center, “stands as a testament to Richard’s enduring legacy ….” After designing hundreds of sets for local and nonlocal theaters and festivals alike, “Dick” is honored with a dedicated theater in his name.

Read More »

Latest posts

Obituary: Patricia Ann Wixon

Obituary: Patty Wixon, 89, passed away peacefully July 17 at home with her children and Vince Wixon, beloved husband for nearly 50 years, by her side. She asked that those remember her by doing something kind for someone else in her name — from giving food to a homeless stranger to volunteering at an organization in your community or donating to a scholarship fund at a favorite school.

Read More >

Butler-Perozzi Fountain work moves ahead

The fundraising campaign for the restoration of the historic Butler-Perozzi fountain in Lithia Park is nearing completion following a $20,000 grant awarded by the State Historic Preservations Office’s Preserving Oregon Grant Program.  

Read More >

Poetry Corner: Where we’re from, where we live

Poetry Corner: Both of today’s poems speak to the importance of community and identity. Louise M. Paré’s poem tells how the connection to her ancestral homeland of Ukraine continues to shape her persona. Seth Kaplan’s recent move from the Applegate to Talent describes how he has easily become attached to his new place and discovered the “us” in his community.

Read More >

Explore More...

The fundraising campaign for the restoration of the historic Butler-Perozzi fountain in Lithia Park is nearing completion following a $20,000 grant awarded by the State Historic Preservations Office’s Preserving Oregon Grant Program.  
Poetry Corner: Both of today’s poems speak to the importance of community and identity. Louise M. Paré’s poem tells how the connection to her ancestral homeland of Ukraine continues to shape her persona. Seth Kaplan’s recent move from the Applegate to Talent describes how he has easily become attached to his new place and discovered the “us” in his community.
Shakespeare’s "Coriolanus" hit the stage Tuesday at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. Directed by Rosa Joshi, the play tells the story of a powerful yet starving population and a war hero turned politician.
Childcare providers have until Friday, July 26, to submit applications for Early Childhood Affordability Grant Program grants, according to an announcement by the city on Monday, July 22. The application period opened July 12, the release said.
A master plan tailor-made to guide the city of Ashland’s approach to homelessness was unanimously approved Thursday evening by the final committee standing between the plan and a review from Ashland City Council. A review of the master plan is scheduled for the Aug. 5 council study session. 
ashland.news logo

Subscribe to the newsletter and get local news sent directly to your inbox.

(It’s free)

Don't Miss Our Top Stories

Get our newsletter delivered to your inbox three times a week.
It’s FREE and you can cancel anytime.