'Circle' players go straight to the heart.

AuthorKolas, Paul

Byline: Paul Kolas

Circle Mirror Transformation

By Annie Baker, directed by Matthew J. Carr. Presented by Pilgrim Soul Productions and Valley CAST at the GB & Lexi Singh Performance Center at Alternatives' Whitin Mill, 50 Douglas Road, Whitinsville. Performances Sept. 7, 13 & 14 at 7:30pm, Sept. 15 at 2pm. Tickets: $15 (groups of 10+ $12). For reservations, call 508-296-0797, or email pilgrimsoulproductions@gmail.com (tickets also available at the door). With Fred D'Angelo, Melissa Earls, Patricia Hughes, Michael Legge and Linda Oroszko.

NORTHBRIDGE -- It's interesting to ponder what Lee Strasberg or Stella Adler would make of Annie Baker's "Circle Mirror Transformation.''

They might wonder, like Patricia Hughes' 16-year-old Lauren, "when are we going to do any real acting?'' Or they may be impressed by the deceivingly elliptical way that Linda Oroszko's Marty, the teacher of an acting class in Shirley, Vt., urges her four students to reveal the desire, insecurity, fear and vulnerability that define their lives.

It may take some patience to appreciate what Baker bravely achieves with her uncompromising play. It defies conventional summation, but for anyone who has ever thought of being an actor, it will ring with authenticity.

Acting, after all, is a form of therapy, and in Pilgrim Soul Production's exquisitely acted presentation of "Circle Mirror Transformation,'' we come to know as much about these characters in their perfectly measured silence as we do in their often haltingly delivered dialogue.

This is an ideal play for Matthew J. Carr to direct, one ripe with the sort of nuance that can be explored with the surgical precision that Carr brought to sublime fruition on Friday evening. It's also an ideal play to act in, and along with Hughes and Oroszko, Fred D'Angelo, Melissa Earls and Michael Legge envelope you in an intimacy that is funny, touching, endearing, and sometimes painfully uncomfortable.

They are all transformed in significant ways over the course of Marty's six-week class. Relationships bloom and fade. A marriage breaks up. A father finally talks to his daughter after years of silence. Secrets are revealed in surprising ways, even the source of Marty's "night terrors,'' as D'Angelo's Schultz calls them.

Baker cleverly weaves together the artifice of the acting exercises with "real'' encounters between students. The play opens, with the repeating motif, of five people lying on the stage floor, counting to 10. The goal is to...

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