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“Circle Mirror Transformation” by Annie Baker Is a Delightful 2010 OBIE Award-Winning Comedy

Raleigh Ensemble Players' production of "Circle Mirror Transformation" runs Feb. 17-19 and 23-26 and March 2-4 at 213 Fayetteville St.

Raleigh Ensemble Players' production of "Circle Mirror Transformation" runs Feb. 17-19 and 23-26 and March 2-4 at 213 Fayetteville St.

Raleigh Ensemble Players will present Circle Mirror Transformation, a delightful new OBIE Award-winning comedy by Boston, MA-born playwright Annie Baker, on Feb. 17-19 and 23-26 and March 2-4 at 213 Fayetteville St., Suite 202, in the heart of downtown Raleigh, NC.

REP artistic director C. Glen Matthews will stage the show with a cast that includes 2011-12 Raleigh Ensemble Players ensemble members Jillian Holmquist, John Honeycutt, Page Purgar, Ros Schwartz, and Brian Yandle.

According to Dramatists Play Service, Inc.:

“When four lost New Englanders who enroll in Marty’s six-week-long community-center drama class begin to experiment with harmless games, hearts are quietly torn apart, and tiny wars of epic proportions are waged and won.

“[Circle Mirror Transformation is a] beautifully crafted diorama, a Petri dish in which we see, with hilarious detail and clarity, the antic sadness of a motley quintet.”

The play had its world premiere Off Broadway in October 2009 at Playwrights Horizons in New York City. The production won three OBIE Awards — for Best New American Play; Best Performance; Ensemble; and Best Directing (Sam Gold). It was also nominated for the Drama Desk Awards for Outstanding Play and Outstanding Director of a Play.

The cast of Circle Mirror Transformation also received a special Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Ensemble Performances. The show made The New York Times and The New Yorker’s 2010 theater Top 10 lists.

In reviewing the Off-Broadway production of Circle Mirror Transformation for The New York Times, Charles Isherwood wrote:

“Annie Baker’s play is an absolute feast. Circle Mirror Transformation is the kind of unheralded gem that sends people into the streets babbling and bright-eyed with the desire to spread the word.

“The play traces the lives of a handful of small-town Vermont residents who gather each week for an acting class taught at the local community center. By the play’s end we seem to see to the very bottom of these souls, and feel how the artificial intimacy of the acting class has shaped their lives in substantial ways.”

The Variety critic added, “[Circle Mirror Transformation is] orchestrated with a subtlety and unfailing naturalness that make the play’s small revelations disarming and unexpected. The characterizations display a miniaturist attention to detail that goes down to the bone…. Baker is never blind to their weaknesses and faults, yet regards them all with a warm, empathetic eye.”

BackStage claimed, “Smartly, sneakily, [Annie] Baker gives us the rare theater-centric play that’s not self-obsessed. [Circle Mirror Transformation] is about real people exploring their lives through tiny leaps of faith and creativity.”

The Associated Press wrote, “Baker develops her characters slowly through their interactions each week in class, which is the only place we see them. Naturally, their real, offstage lives gradually infiltrate the classroom, revealing insights and transformations both humorous and heartbreaking.”

The Village Voice said, “[Circle Mirror Transformation r]everberates with seduction and sorrow…. [T]he play’s final scene is devastatingly gentle.”

In an e-mail, Raleigh Ensemble Players writes:

“REP is thrilled to host the inaugural North Carolina exhibition of R. Jimenez-Hedesa’s art in the lobby of 213 Fayetteville St. throughout the run of Circle Mirror Transformation.

“Born in Havana Cuba, Jimenez-Hedesa recently moved to Durham after 30 years in Miami, Florida. Besides creating her acrylic abstract surrealism paintings, she specializes in historic architectural theater and church restorations. A new passion is creating Buddhist altar installations.

“For more information, go to http://www.rjhfineart.com/.”

Raleigh Ensemble Players present CIRCLE MIRROR TRANSFORMATION at 8 p.m. Feb. 17 and 18, 7 p.m. Feb. 19, 8 p.m. Feb. 23-25, 7 p.m. Feb. 26, 8 p.m. March 2 and 3, and 7 p.m. March 4 in Suite 202, 213 Fayetteville St., Raleigh, North Carolina 27601.

TICKETS: $20 ($15 students and educators, seniors, and active-duty military personnel), except Feb. 23rd pay-what-you-can performance and $10 Student Rush Tickets (5 minutes before curtain).

BOX OFFICE: 919-832-9607, gorep@juno.com, or http://www.realtheatre.org/box_office.html.

SHOW: http://www.realtheatre.org/box_office.html.

PRESENTER/VENUE: http://www.realtheatre.org/.

DIRECTIONS: http://www.realtheatre.org/directions.html.

NOTE: Arts Access, Inc. of Raleigh (http://www.artsaccessinc.org/) will audio describe the 8 p.m. March 2nd performance.

OTHER LINKS:

The Play: http://www.dramatists.com/cgi-bin/db/single.asp?key=4189 (Dramatists Play Service, Inc.), http://newdramatists.org/annie-baker/circle-mirror-transformation (New Dramatists) and http://www.lortel.org/ (Internet Off-Broadway Database).

The Playwright: http://newdramatists.org/annie-baker (New Dramatists), http://americantheatrewing.org/biography/detail/annie_baker (American Theatre Wing), http://www.doollee.com/PlaywrightsB/baker-annie.html (Doollee.com), and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Annie_Baker (Wikipedia).

R. Jimenez-Hedesa: http://www.rjhfineart.com/ (official website).

EDITOR’S NOTE:

Robert W. McDowell is editor and publisher of Triangle Theater Review, a FREE weekly e-mail theatrical newsletter that provides more comprehensive, in-depth coverage of Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill theater than all of the other news media combined. This preview is reprinted with permission from Triangle Theater Review.

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