Circle Mirror Transformation 

Artists Rep's Play about the Power of Theater: Less Wanky Than It Sounds


Circle Mirror Transformation, produced here by Artists Repertory Theatre, takes a page straight from the The Breakfast Club's time-honored playbook: Five strangers, all outside of their comfort zones, come together for a finite period of time in a space that's enough removed from daily life that social walls begin to break down. Secrets will be revealed. Lives will, presumably, be changed forever.

The lives that're changed in playwright Annie Baker's Circle Mirror Transformation belong to a failed actress recently washed in from New York City, a troubled teenaged girl, a recently divorced bachelor eager to experience something new, a sporting elderly gentleman who happens to be the husband of the instructor, and the instructor herself.

In a small-town acting workshop, these five share moments both silly and serious—the play gets its structure from acting class exercises (monologues and improv games) in which characters reveal bits and pieces about themselves. It's fun watching relationships emerge over the course of the show, though the production drags a bit thanks to too-long blackouts between scenes. (The show could've been tightened by a half an hour, and improved for it.)

But for a play about the theater, it's not nearly as insular as it sounds. A from-art-to-life attempt to implicate the audience via a mirrored wall is less impactful than the transformation enacted upon the characters by simple time—a point that the ending, while a bit too tidy, effectively drives home.

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