subscribe: Posts | Comments

‘Circle Mirror Transformation’ has feel of sitcom but delivers murder mystery intrigue


Up next in the Joan Jenks Auditorium at Golden Gate Community Center is The Studio Players’ production of Annie Baker’s Circle Mirror Transformation. It’s the third in a trilogy of plays set in the fictional town of Shirley, Vermont. [The other two are Body Awareness and The Aliens.] This one places the audience in a windowless community center room where a woman by the name of Marty is finally getting the chance to teach an adult acting class.

Circle Mirror Transformation takes its name from a common acting exercise, and as Marty leads her four students through word games, trust and role playing exercises over the course of the six-week class, their stories slowly emerge. But they’re not distilled so much from the dialogue that Baker provides, but rather from the tone and silences that have become associated with the Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright. “It’s an unpretentiously sophisticated format that demands brilliant acting, sensitive direction and the utmost simplicity,” notes San Francisco theater critic Robert Hurwitt. With Scott Lilly at the helm and a cast anchored by Hollis Galman and Gerri Benzing, the show is in proven, capable hands.

To advance the timeline over the span of the six-week class, the play is constructed of dozens of mini-scenes that progress from the one to the next. As a result, Circle Mirror Transformation at times conveys the feel of a sitcom with rom-con tinges but delivers the same kind of intrigue as a murder mystery, and that makes it refreshingly original and different from the usual theatrical fare.

As the title intimates, all five characters will undergo transformative growth. As the students reveal disquieting personal secrets, the group begins to fracture under the pressure of increasingly awkward interactions. As the story progresses, you’ll come to know Marty (Hollis Galman), her husband James (Les Williams), Schultz (Tom Rex), Theresa (Gerri Benzing) and Lauren (Rosie DeLeon) better than you know most of your friends and relatives. Because Annie Baker forces you to read between the lines to infer what the characters are thinking, what each character will do next is by no means inevitable and their sense of self is as subject to change as the Vermont weather outside. But what you’ll learn most is that you learn best from the simple act of listening, a theme that’s underscored by The Studio Players’ current production, Walter Cronkite Is Dead.

The show opens November 27 and will run through December 13.

September 29, 2020.


‘Circle Mirror Transformation’ play dates, times and ticket info

Comments are closed.