Heartland Theatre's production of Annie Baker's Circle Mirror Transformation returns to the stage tonight with a 7:30 pm performance, followed by Friday and Saturday evening performances and a Sunday matinee at 2 pm. The Sunday show will be followed by a talkback with director Cyndee Brown, as Brown steps in front of the curtain to discuss one of the central issues in Baker's sweet, sad, funny play -- the transformative power of theater and theater classes.
Circle Mirror Transformation involves an "adult drama" class at a community center in Vermont, where four very different students -- a high school girl who wants to get a jump on the lead in West Side Story, a socially inept carpenter coming off a bad divorce, an actress from New York coming off a bad relationship of her own, and the teacher's husband, only there to fill out the class -- go through a series of theater games with their instructor, a woman named Marty who teaches jewelry and pottery classes, too. Baker has constructed the play to reveal who they are slowly and gently, through the seemingly goofy exercises they play.
|Cristen Monson (center) offers a monologue in Circle Mirror Transformation
Whether you choose to stick around for the discussion or not, you'll definitely want to see Circle Mirror Transformation, one of the most popular plays of the past few years, while it's still available in Bloomington-Normal. Its characters, so subtly drawn, so vulnerable, so flawed, are what makes it stand out in my mind.
For Heartland, Cathy Sutliff plays Marty, the instructor leading her students into discovery and self-exploration, while Dean Brown plays her congenial husband, James; Cristen Monson takes on Theresa, who is very good at a lot of things but very bad at relationships; Aaron J. Thomas as Schultz, the awkward carpenter; and Julia Besch as Lauren, the smart and insightful teen in their midst.
You can find out more about the play here, or proceed directly to show times or reservation information. Circle Mirror Transformation continues at Heartland Theatre through November 24.