I've said it before and I'm sure I'll say it again since it keeps coming up, I personally cannot stand other people's therapy on stage. And if you must put up some theatrical therapy, at least frame it in an interesting story. And while the Seattle Rep's current production of "Circle Mirror Transformation" isn't necessarily author Annie Baker's therapy, it is the therapy for her five characters and no, they're not that interesting.
The therapy here is thinly veiled in the guise of an acting class at a community center. The teen damaged actress Lauren (Anastasia Higham), the socially awkward Schultz (Michael Patten), the free spirited Theresa (Elizabeth Raetz), the wise and laid back James (Peter A. Jacobs) and his wife, the perky Marty (Gretchen Krich) have all come together to partake of this class, which seems to be less about acting and more about discovery of each other.
There's really not much else to say here as not much else happens in the play. There's really no overall plot or arc to the show nor is there much of a story. The characters show up once a week over a six week period and play theater games all night long. And we as the audience are only let in on snippets of the evenings as the lights would go out and move from one snippet to the next which did not lend itself to making the show any more interesting. On the contrary it was like Baker repeatedly had to point out which moments were important or poignant which just seems the device of a bad storyteller. And that could have been forgivable if the characters were interesting at all but they were just such cliché remnants of characters we've seen in so many Lifetime movies or Afterschool specials that I found it very difficult to care about any of them. And I realize it's a relationship play but I never once got an indication as to why I care about these people having a relationship.
And to top it all off, the characters insisted on inserting lengthy pauses throughout which did nothing except to turn what could have been a 90 minute show into a two hour one (and with no intermission). I kept wondering if this was a director, actor or author's choice until I read the interview in the program where the author talks about her obsession with awkward silences. Yes, silences can be powerful but not when we're beaten over the head with them. Then they're just awkward.
The performances were fine for what the actors were given to work with. The characters are written so flatly that there's not much to do with them. And some are written so annoyingly that I just wanted to step on them by the end of the night. I would talk more about the individual actors, but it really wasn't their fault.
All in all an uninteresting play with a few laughs that ultimately goes nowhere. And I can honestly say that this is one class I would never want to take, let alone watch.
"Circle Mirror Transformation" plays at the Seattle Rep through November 20th. For tickets or information contact the Rep box office at 206-443-2222 or visit them online at www.seattlerep.org.
Photo credit: Chris Bennion