Art & Design
Posted by Paul Drury
23. Aug, 2011
In Smallville USA four strangers attend a community college acting class for very different reasons. Run by former flower child Marty (Deidre Rubenstein), the classes involve abstract, often ridiculous verbal and physical exercises anyone who’s ever been forced to ‘spacejump’ will chuckle and possibly cringe at. As the classes progress over a six week period the characters gradually learn more about one other, at times more than they wanted to.
Not a lot happens in Circle Mirror Transformation, on the surface anyway, reflecting the hyper-naturalistic style US playwright Annie Baker is so renowned for. This means the success of the piece relies on the ability of its actors to convey humor and pathos in dialogue that is often touching, melancholic and nearly always funny. Happily the MTC players are more than up to the challenge, and it’s entertaining seeing these talented actors portray less gifted thepians.
Deidre Rubenstein is superb as Marty, the hippy-dippy drama teacher while Roger Oakley is solid as Marty’s Lothario of a husband James (whose motivation for joining the class is never fully explained). Kate Cole embraces the angst of Theresa, the coquettish drama queen facing the prospect of being over the hill and alone while Bridgid Gallacher exudes a quiet strength as Lauren, the introverted teen with a troubled home life. The most outstanding performance is given by Ben Grant as the goofy, loveable and ultimately damaged Schultz, the recently divorced electrician who falls for Theresa’s charms.
While the play never feels like it’s entering dangerous territory, there’s a constant level of unease as the light-hearted theatre games inexorably reveal the deeper, indeed darker motivations driving the characters to act, that is, to pretend to be other people. Marg Horwell’s minimalist set design of a hula hoop, bouncing ball and a wall of mirrors subtly references the circular trap the characters find themselves in.
Circle Mirror Transformation is a clever, sharply written piece of theatre that its talented cast makes greater than the sum of its parts. Recommended.
Circle Mirror Transformation
Venue: The MTC Theatre, Lawler Studio
Season dates: Until 17 September 2011
Tickets: From $35 (Under 30s $25)
Booking details: The MTC Theatre Box Office 03 8688 0800 or mtc.com.au
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