Saturday, October 1, 2011

Circle Mirror Confusion

Peter Birnie is right. Reading his damning review of the Arts Club production of Annie Baker's Circle Mirror Transformation (on at the Granville Island Stage until October 22) in yesterday's Vancouver Sun in advance of attending that evening's performance, I thought: how can this be?

The play, about secrets sheltered by the damaged participants of a community acting class in small-town Vermont, was the toast of the 2009-10 Off-Broadway season and, together with her play The Aliens, cemented Baker as an up-and-coming star in the American theatrical firmament (she's just been named, along with Kenneth Lonergan, Katori Hall, Will Eno, and Regina Taylor, as a resident playwright of The Signature Theatre Company). I had read adulatory reviews of the New York production by critics whom I respect. And Nicola Cavendish was at the helm here in Vancouver. What could go wrong?

Plenty, it appears, and while much of the blame can be placed squarely at the feet of Cavendish (why so many blackouts, and why so long for each in a 45 minute first act?), it would have to be a pretty crackerjack ensemble to overcome the structural weaknesses and general thinness of Baker's script. This might have been the case in New York (the great Reed Birney was in that cast, after all), but it's not here. Believe me, the only thing worse than bad acting is badly acted bad acting.

An unfortunate--and unusual--misstep for the Arts Club. And after this past January's disappointing (although form much different reasons) mounting of This at the Playhouse, I'm definitely starting to second guess the imprimatur of the New York Times' Charles Isherwood.


No comments: