Theater Info for the Washington DC region

Vienna Theatre Company Circle Mirror Transformation

By • Jan 23rd, 2012 • Category: Reviews
Circle Mirror Transformation by Annie Baker
Vienna Theatre Company
Vienna Community Center, Vienna, VA
Through February 5th
$13/$11 Seniors and Students
2:00 with one intermission
Reviewed January 20th, 2012

Everyone who has ever taken an acting class can agree that it’s a memorable experience. Whether it’s remembered as a valuable, enlightening experience, a nightmare or even a simple annoyance, people remember it. Vienna Theatre Company’s performance of Circle Mirror Transformation tries to involve the audience, but often just gives enough information to interest not satisfy.

Circle Mirror Transformation by Annie Baker tells the story a small town community center maven and her first adult theatre class. Marty and her four pupils set forth to journey together for six weeks and learn about acting. There are several major problems with the script. Many times, small sideline stories are introduced and mentioned several times never to be resolved, or even developed. Also, many of the class days are broken up into 3 or 4 pieces separated by blackouts. It often gives the audience the feeling they are missing something crucial, only to be reintroduced and view the mundane. Another problem is the acting games. This script is littered with many acting games and exercises: counting and lying in a circle, telling someone else’s story, recreating rooms with people as objects and many others. In most cases, these games don’t lead the audience to any deeper understanding of the character. In the cases where the games do further a measure of character development, the dialogue that follows muddies the growth.

With such a difficult and unfulfilling script, the actors are at a clear disadvantage in this piece, but a couple of actors managed to make standout performances. Rebecca Lenehan is absolutely wonderful as Marty, the teacher of the class. Her energy, range and commitment make the character the most lovely and real part of the show. Camille Gilbert also turns in a good performance as the class’s youngest student, sixteen-year-old Lauren. Even though the character is weighted with typical teenage angst, Gilbert gives the part the personality to keep the audience interested. Gilbert especially shines in the moments of softness as she shares more with her classmates. Jon Roberts gave a fine a performance as James, Marty’s husband. Tom Flatt’s performance as Schultz seemed to be a little unfocused. While it was easy to understand Schultz’s basic desires, both the script and Flatt seemed to lack the development of the more sensitive and artistic sides of his character. The character that was most problematic was Theresa. Shannon Benton played her with a lot of energy but often it was too much. There was so much pacing, weight shifting, eye rolling, hair tucking, shirt pulling down, pants pulling up, tongue sticking out and other ticks that watching her was very uncomfortable. She was so jumpy and unrestrained. That quality made it seem very unlikely that she was a 35-year-old woman who had acted in New York. While not everyone who tries to become an actress succeeds, it’s certainly difficult to imagine someone, somewhere wouldn’t have tried to at least remove some of her physical ticks while performing. When the character wasn’t performing, Benton still seemed agitated.

The technical elements of the show were fine. The projector helped the audience keep track of what class it was, and understand when the shifts occurred. The music used in the preshow and intermission helped create a mood of self-reflection. The set is fine, as it does resemble an acting studio. Working with mirrors onstage is extremely difficult. While the angle of the mirrors was smartly placed, the funhouse distortion of the mirrors occasionally distracted from characters reactions. The props were excellent and believable. The costumes of the show had a few problems. Theresa’s clothes were always seemingly somewhat ill fitting with too short tops. Schultz claimed to be 48 but wore a variety of very young band t-shirts that would seem better suited to someone much younger. The garments worn by Marty, James and Lauren all seemed very believable.

Director Jessie Roberts’ production seems to suffer the most from a script perspective. The cast tries. The technical elements help the audience understand these characters and this world. Even though much effort is made by all involved in the end Circle Mirror Transformation is an unsatisfying experience.

Photo Gallery

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Photos provided by Vienna Theatre Company


  • Schultz: Tom Flatt
  • James: Jon Roberts
  • Marty : Rebecca Lenehan
  • Lauren: Camille Gilbert
  • Theresa: Shannon Benton

Production Staff

  • Producer: Suzanne Maloney
  • Asst Producer: Laura Fargotstein
  • Director: Jessie Roberts
  • Stage Manager: Ben Allen
  • Asst Stage Manager: Laura Moody
  • Set Designer: John Vasko
  • Lighting Designer: Chris Hardy
  • Sound Designer: Jon Roberts
  • Costume Designer: Judy Whelihan
  • Set Construction Crew: Ben Allen, Tom Flatt, Suzanne Maloney, Ken Perkowski, Jon Roberts, John Vasko
  • Master Electrician: Tom Epps
  • Light Board Operators: Iris Chan, Erin Becker, Bill Mullins, Ken Perkowski, Michael Scwandt
  • Sound Board Operators: Laura Fargotstein, Jocelyn Steiner, Eric Storck
  • Photographer: Harold Bonacquist

Disclaimer: Vienna Theatre Company provided two complimentary media tickets to ShowBizRadio for this review. VTC also purchased advertising on the web site, which did not influence this review.

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is an actor, singer, director and writer. She is a relative newcomer to the DC theatrical community. Kari has been performing since she was a little girl in church and began seriously pursuing acting in high school. She is a graduate of Emory & Henry College with a degree in Theater. The favorite part of her theatrical training was her apprenticeship at Barter Theater in Abingdon, Virginia. While at Barter Theatre she was privileged to act on the Main Stage (Eleanor: An American Love Story) and with the Player Company (Frog Prince and Just So Stories Two). Kari is currently concentrating on returning to acting and assisting with drama at her church.

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