October 26, 2010

CIRCLE MIRROR TRANSFORMATION - Audience Comments

contributed by Todd Williams

Michael Hammond (James), Betsy Aidem (Marty), Marie Polizzano (Lauren),  Nadia Bowers (Theresa), and Jeremiah Kissel (Schultz) in the Huntington Theatre Company’s production of Circle Mirror Transformation, by Annie Baker, playing October 15 – November 14, 2010 at the Calderwood Pavilion at the BCA as part of the Shirly, VT Plays Festival. Photo: T. Charles Erickson

Have you seen Circle Mirror Transformation? Share your thoughts with us!

Did you find the structure of the play different from Bus Stop? How did it affect your experience as an audience member?

The play was very specifically scripted, the pauses, even the games. Only one game was improvised. Can you guess which one?

Were you familiar with the theatre games the characters were playing? Was the class portrayed in the play what you would expect of a drama class? Tell us about an experience you've had in a creative drama class.

Leave your comments here

The Huntington Theatre Company production of Circle Mirror Transformation  by Annie Baker plays now through November 14th, 2010 at the Calderwood Pavilion at the Boston Center for the Arts, 572 Tremont St Boston MA 02116.  For tickets and information click here or call our box office at 617 266-0800

31 comments:

Anonymous said...

I understand that Circle Mirror won an award. Perhaps for the award-giving theatre people who have experienced acting classes there was a point to this boring six-episodic group therapy session in which nobody had an interesting problem. It was far below Huntington standards.

For my part, the best I can say about this play is that the actors performed a poor script very well and it was better than Persephone! Please don't select future plays based on awards - read the script.

Judith Black on Goldstar said...

The piece was beautifully acted and produced. The play itself was well structured, but the characters lacked a three dimensionality that could have drawn us profoundly into their lives.

Janet 243 on ArtsBoston.org said...

Circle Mirror Transformation is a beautiful, smart play about 5 people in an acting class. You'll find you care about them from practically the first minute, and will be very moved as their stories come out over the course of the 2 hours. Actors are first-rate. See it!

Carleton Kendrick said...

My first disappointing play at The Huntington.
Not enough "meat on the bone" (the lack of three dimensionality cited in Judith Black's comment) of these characters to care about or be interested in their lives.
I'd be stunned if this play had mainstream audience appeal and surprised that it garnered a prestigious theater award.

Anonymous said...

My sympathy to the fine actors who had the misfortune of having to perform this self-indulgent piece of writing which attempts to make up for depth with interminable pauses during which audience members are supposed to find meaning but are more likely glancing at their watches. The fault may lie with the direction as much as with the script, but the effect is to destroy any hope for the non-remarkable characters ever managing to engage the audience.

Anonymous said...

I was impressed with the writing of this play and enjoyed the performances very much. I liked that we learned a lot about these characters with just a few key details, and that their monologues when they had to be another student in the class revealed as much about the speakers as they did the other person. I am looking forward to the other 2 plays.

Craig said...

My wife had warned me about this play's lukewarm review in the Metro: "It’s not a bad production, really, it just moves slowly, going nowhere for long periods of time." After seeing the play, I read the cold reviews posted here: "My sympathy to the fine actors who had the misfortune of having to perform this self-indulgent piece of writing."

But I have to disagree on both accounts.

I was engaged from the first scene onward. This play had traction for me, layers of texture, simple conflict and ordinary characters I quickly came to care about.

And what exactly about this play is self-indulgent? That a playwright writes about acting? I don't think it's wrong to write about what you know.

I can see how this play wouldn't have mainstream appeal: it doesn't deliver much sweet or spicy sauciness. Flavors are a bit subdued.

Anonymous said...

Not just bad, but very bad. And almost all of it the fault of the kind of script you would expect from a first-year student (who would then get a "C" for her effort). Hackneyed, cliched characters. Minimal development. Superficial intellectual content.

barbara greenglass said...

I found this the most boring play I have ever seen. High School productions have been far superior. The "story" is so weak that it amounts to almost nothing. I kept looking at my watch hoping that I would not have to suffer much longer. Thie is not up to Huntington's standards. I would not renew if this is the direction you are taking.

Judemy said...

I read the Playbill before seeing a play. Yes, this was 'different' and generated a lot of opinions, views, etc., afterwards during the discussion. It certainly was a lively one-- which, to me, is what excites me about live theatre!

Anonymous said...

I thought the play was remarkable and the actors outstanding. (So did my friend who attended the performance with me.) Annie Baker is brilliant. She captures humanity as we are, and life as it is. The pauses were not boring at all to me, but instead helped elevate the production. It struck me that actors must love playing these roles -- they each get the opportunity to truly live within another person. I would attend other plays by Annie Baker (especially if produced as this one was by Huntington) any time!

Doug said...

This was almost the worst play yet put on by the Huntington save the horrid Civil War Christmas catastrophe last year. It was dull, uninteresting and not one of the characters was remotely interesting. The only redeeming quality was the acting. I actually felt badly for the actors who had to perform this one dimensional piece. About twenty minutes into the play I realized why they did not have an intermission - they feared that they would loose their audience. Next time I'll walk out stepping over people. Get with it Huntington, the quality of the plays you have been putting on recently has seriously declined! You're going to lose subscribers next.

kathy said...

I enjoyed the play immensley and loved the stories of these "regular" folks, leading regular lives in one point in time. I could see some audience members fidgeting in the beginnning and two behind us left early, but the characters slowly revealed themselves to each other(and the sudience)and the complexity of all our lives as we live them was there for us to see. Ten years later and there we are...
Thanks to all the Huntington team.
PS
I have been a member for many years and hope to continue.

Anonymous said...

This is the worst play that my wife and I have ever seen. If we had not been seated in the middle of a row we would have walked out.
Bob & Shirley Goldman

Roberta said...

I have been a subscriber to the Huntington for a number of years now. I love theatre and, until last year, have been very pleased with the quality and variety of the plays the Huntington presents. I have always found them interesting, inspiring, and entertaining. Since then, it has been more like 50-50, a mixed bag. Last year, I actually walked out of "A Civil War Christmas" at intermission because it was so awful. Having recently seen "Circle Mirror", I am now most concerned whether the quality is continuing to slip. The play was horrible, boring, and a total waste of time. I was joined by a friend who is also a subscriber. His comment was that had there been an intermission, most people would have left at that point. We did agree that the actors tried to do their best with the script but it was hopeless. We didn't even realize until mid-way in the play that the characters were participating in an acting class; we thought they were in some group therapy session. We are hoping that the plays for the rest of the season improve and return to the standards for which we chose to become subscribers. If not, we will seriously reconsider whether to renew our subscription.

Nancy Lefkowitz on Goldstar said...

4 out of 5 stars.

A little slow but definitely worth seeing. Excellent acting by all. Amazing that the play was written by a 29 year old.....

Anonymous said...

A definite snoozer. The characters were so shallow I found myself not caring what happened to any of them, and wondering what the point was. I almost didn't renew my subscription this year, there better be more substance this season or my 15+ year subscription will end.

Anonymous said...

I found the play boring, indeed almost painful to sit through. The characters weren't interesting enough to care about, and the ending was forced.

Dormitzer said...

My wife and I did enjoy Circle Mirror Transformation. We also stayed for the discussion after the play. We were intrigued by the question of which secret belonged to which character and did we remember enough about each, and what they did and said to fully reveal who wrote which secret. After the discussion my wife and I tossed ideas back and forth in the car on the way home thinking we had figured it out but realizing how much of the subtlety of the play we had missed. One of the discussion participants pointed out that four participants wrote in pencil and one in ink. One of the characters therefore knew who had written in ink. Did we observe who read the note and how they reacted? We also saw Aliens by Annie Baker a few days later. Although very different, both are innovative theatre and we encourage you to continue challenging us (but not all the time).

Shaker Bridge Theatre said...

I am startled at the number of people who reacted negatively to this production. Perhaps these are people who believe that theatre is about beautiful language, and not about being witness to something momentous happening. Annie is our Chekhov. There is so much happening here that it is dizzying - if one is perceptive enough to sense it. My theatre just did this play last month, and all of the actors were amazed at how many levels and conflicts arc and cross through this little room. I also loved the idea of using no sound! This play is a testament to our capacity to be compassionate.

Judith Miller said...

After reading the entries on the blog, I wondered: Do some playgoers not believe "less is more?" "No meat on the bones" means as a participant I have to work harder? I have to be more patient and work hard to "hear" the silences? Scan the actors' body language, expressions rather than wait for the words to break the silence? Do some playgoers not read The Playbill beforehand? In this case the description of the theater games? So we knew it was not a group therapy session? Do we not learn from this play the power of play and letting go in forging relationships and empathy? The power of theater to remind us of our humanity? My experience as an audience member: Brilliant writing, a simple (in best sense of the word)aesthetic architecture, inventive,well-acted. A breath of fresh air. A play that made you think about your own ability to "read" people.A play that continues on in conversations.

lookaround360 said...

My first experience of the Huntington was spoiled by the play. Sophomoric and dull it offered no challenges. Some say it wasn't supposed to be THAT kind of theater - kind of a minimalist thing, you see. The elevator mutterings going down to the garage was funnier - I'm relieved to know it wasn't just me. To paraphrase the drama coach "Oh well, we'll try again next week."

Carleton Kendrick said...

An individual from the Shaker Bridge Theater, who states her "theatre just did this play last month," impugns the artistic tastes and "perceptive" capacities of those whose comments found this play unsatisfying on many levels.

She/he also adds that those of us who thoroughly disliked this play may not know what theater is suuposed to offer, for "perhaps these {we} are people who believe that theatre is about beautiful language, and not about being witness to something momentous happening."
Such comments, unwarranted assumptions assumptions and arrogance have no place in shared civil, respectful dialogues about one's artistic experiences.
Shaker Bridge person, I'm pleased that you found such delight and amazement in this production. I did not for reasons I brtiefly summed up in my initial comment. As for your believing "Annie is our Chekhov," I'm guessing even Miss Baker would find such theatrical hyperbole amusing.

Christie Higginbottom said...

I guess from the foregoing comments that this is not a play for everyone, but my husband and I (Huntington subscribers for over 7 years) agree with others who found it captivating and original. Like Dormitzer and wife, we talked about it all the way home to central Mass. It is very tightly crafted, clever in its subtlety - I would love to see it again to find details early in the drama that I am sure I missed. I too (like Judith Miller) thought that the pauses were very powerful - I recall my college drama teacher's direction to build on silence. Acting and direction excellent - body language particularly effective. These are real people.
Please, Huntington, continue to challenge your audiences!

kcapraro said...

This was the WORST play I have ever seen in my life. I agree with Bob - IF there were an intermission, my husband and I BOTH would have left. THere was no redeeming qualities in it at all - except for the young Lauren. I do NOT think we will renew our subscriptions to the Huntington for next year - quality is definitely slipping.

Anonymous said...

I am surprised to see all of the negative comments on this blog. I was thoroughly entertained by this play and believe most of the audience was, as well. Trying to figure out where the play was going was part of the fun. The same audience members who were saying "this is weird" at the beginning were clapping enthusiastically at the end. I much prefer this kind of innovative theatre to tired old reruns of dated shows. In three years of Huntington attendance, this show is one of my favorites along with "Becky Shaw" and "Stickfly." I hope to see more plays with this kind of creativity and fine acting.

Diane Engel (subscriber) said...

Although I've been a great supporter of the Huntington Theater for many years, I was quite disappointed in the lack of dramatic impact in this play. A younger family member commented that the script needed to be "tightened up"; I felt that it was not on the same level as the performance of the actors. Although the idea held promise, the play was not yet ready to present to an audience.

Anonymous said...

After the first five minutes of Circle Mirror I was thoroughly prepared to dislike it -- but I found myself slowly being drawn into the lives and personalities (and secrets) of the characters, and by the end I was impressed by both the play and the production. There is much more than meets the eye in this play. . . (I also enjoyed reading these blog comments. It's amazing how different people can see the same play and have so many different responses. I guess that's what makes the theater such interesting art form.) - Tim

Anonymous said...

Fell asleep 2 x's

Rebecca Curtiss, Huntington communciations manager said...

Thanks to everyone who posted thoughts about "Circle Mirror Transformation" on our blog! We want this to be a place where people express their diverse views about our work, and are happy to see it used as such. Among its many aims, theatre is meant to inspire a dialogue. Judging by the 29 diverse and spirited comments posted, we accomplished this. We look forward to learning more from our audience. Keep writing!

Lee Shin said...

spot on with this write-up, i like the way you discuss the things. i'm impressed, i must say. i'll probably be back again to read more. thanks for sharing this with us.

Lee Shin
www.trendone.net