Circle mirror transformation review – sign up for annie baker’s drama class stage the guardian west la college dental hygiene program

‘I would like to say that I write for everyone,” the US playwright annie baker mused in an interview. “but I probably just write for depressed people who enjoy ambiguity and long silences.” it’s a bigger constituency than you might imagine. The flick and john have both been successes at the national theatre, and this revival of her 2009 play is performed with richly layered compassion. If you like baker’s plays, chances are you’ll also love them.

This is one of several works baker sets in a small town called shirley – fictional, but very real to her (she even wrote its putative wikipedia entry, explaining that shirley hosts the annual vermont gourd festival and allowed public nudity until 2008).

At the community college, marty holds a weekly adult drama class, in a room whose friendly reds and blues the designer samal blak took from memories of his own vermont childhood.Baker’s plays

Over six weeks, marty leads her small class through word games, trust exercises and role play. “are we going to be doing any real acting?” complains lauren, a withdrawn teenager who longs to play maria in her school’s production of west side story. But the class is geared more to therapy than performance: five confused people, tunnelling away from their relationships and careers, reveal more of themselves than they expect.

Warm-up games can turn chilly, while a dialogue of nonsense words drifts into deep waters. Each participant takes a turn describing one of the others in first-person monologues that reveal gusts of compassion or disclose a growing crush. The director bijan sheibani, known for physically dynamic productions, tenderly holds baker’s hesitance and hush.Baker’s plays

Circle was one of the first of baker’s plays to receive a major british production, with imelda staunton in 2013, and it’s fascinating to see it refracted through other actors, each sitting differently with their character. There’s a brittleness within amelia bullmore’s scrubbed transparency as marty, the wholesome ash-blonde plait topping a complicated smile. Her husband, a grave anthony ofoegbu, may have joined the class to support her. That’s not how their story goes.

Con O’neill, as the recently divorced carpenter schultz, is almost burly with disappointment, a big man with a small voice and a tight chipmunk grin. Eliminated from one game, he gazes forlornly into a mirror, as if cast adrift on ice. He begins a relationship with theresa, who has turned her back on the big city.Drama class sian clifford gives her a straight-arrow positivity, but following schultz to the bathroom for a breaktime fumble, she also shows you the resolve: another chore to face.

Baker honours human complexity, writing what might almost be a sitcom plus time. Accompanying the class over six weeks, dipping into exercises and breaks, with silences that hold and fill, lets us walk alongside the characters. We see that their choices aren’t inevitable, that their sense of who they are might shift. Lighting designer jack knowles, slowly fading the studio’s fluorescent strips between scenes, lets us mull over what we’ve just seen.

Joy declines, but so does sorrow. The final exercise shifts subtly back into the world, into the future. Schultz and lauren must imagine meeting in 10 years’ time.Baker’s plays O’neill and yasmin paige, who is wonderful as she traces lauren’s mutinous, delighted uncertainty, slowly edge beyond an awkward improvisation and into a glowing affirmation.