"Circle Mirror Transformation" is an exercise in fascination at the Guthrie

Categories: Theater
Michal Daniel
Each of these people has a secret: "Circle Mirror Transformation"
Circle Mirror Transformation opened Saturday night at the Guthrie, and it was a unique, intense, and emotionally riveting experience. Ushers informed the audience coming into the theater that the show was two hours long with no intermission, so if there was any chance that anyone had to, you know, go, then better safe than sorry. 

Turns out it was't the kind of show that leads one to contemplate one's bladder-fullness status. Telling the story of five people taking an acting class at a community center, Annie Baker's play takes six weeks out of these people's lives (ranging in age from 16 to 56) and leaves them ending up at a very different place from where they began.

All of the action takes place in the classroom, with aspects of each character's life filtering into the incessant acting exercises they perform. There's a romance, a romance gone sour, a troubled teen, and a marriage in jeopardy. 

The irony, of course, is that they never actually rehearse anything--they just practice exercise after exercise. And a cast of talented actors manage the feat of convincing us that they are amateurs, which is a nifty feat. 

Baker just took home an Obie award for the play, and based on the evidence at the Guthrie it was well deserved. There's nothing terribly outrageous or willfully inventive about it, but it's a powerful piece of storytelling, finely written, and full of heart and compassion for its characters. 

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