Although the story of PlayMakers Repertory Company world premiere of Draw the Circle is unique to the family in which it occurs, it is universal in its observation of love within the family structure. That does not mean it is an easy story. Author Mashuq Mushtaq Deen has chosen to have no character for his protagonist. His characters all talk about him, but he never speaks for himself.
Deen says that he chose this format to assure he, as the sole performer, did not give himself the latitude for his own bias concerning the story to slip in. It works. He has instead given us nearly 20 different characters that the hero of the play (who is Deen himself, as you may have surmised) has dealt with.
Chay Yew has directed these nearly two dozen characters through an 80-minute nonstop execution of the art of acting, on a bare stage, using only spotlights (designed by Dominic Abbenante) and a chair as basis for all the sets and characterizations that the action passes through. Draw the Circle is truly a tour de force.
Mashuq Mushtaq Deen was born a girl named Shereen, who slowly became aware that she should be a boy. Her Muslim family, who emigrated from India to Connecticut, were confounded trying to understand that this could happen.
Shereen’s Mother had dreams for her daughter’s wedding day, wearing a beautiful sari, and expectations of having her dead body cleansed by Shereen when that ritual becomes necessary. Her Father worked to give his daughter a professional education; but she had become a boy named Deen, who wanted to be an artist. This is the story of Deen’s journey into manhood, and his relationship with the love of his life, Molly.
Deen is an accomplished actor who manages to jump suddenly from one character to another, never altering his voice, but presenting subtle gender-relating gestures and movements to identify male from female, and including believable dialects of Hispanic, several versions of Indian, as well his six-year-old younger sister.
The simple effort of moving four feet with a chair, then setting it at a different angle, or sitting in a different position constitutes both a scene and a character change; and these character changes happen so suddenly that it is astonishing that we can keep up with him as easily as we can.
Mashuq Mushtaq Deen is a phenomenal performer. It must be said also that this is not a Sunday sermon; there is not an iota of preachiness here. This is a love story, pure and simple; it just surrounds a very difficult subject.
After the Aug. 24th presentation, Democratic Rep. Graig Meyer of the N.C. General Assembly joined Deen and PlayMakers Rep’s producing artistic director Vivienne Benesch for an audience-participation discussion that was lively and informative, especially in light of North Carolina’s infamous HB2.
SECOND OPINION: Aug. 23rd Chapel Hill, NC WCHL/Chapelboro.com interview with playwright/performer Mashuq Mushtaq Deen, conducted by Aaron Keck: http://chapelboro.com/news/arts/we-drew-a-circle-playmakers-opens-season; and Aug. 17th Durham, NC Indy Week mini-preview by Byron Woods: http://www.indyweek.com/indyweek/draw-the-circle/Event?oid=5044627. (Note: To read Triangle Arts and Entertainment’s online version of the Aug. 24th Triangle Review preview by Robert W. McDowell, click http://triangleartsandentertainment.org/2016/08/mashuq-mushtaq-deens-solo-draw-the-circle-chronicles-his-female-to-male-transition/.)
PlayMakers Repertory Company presents DRAW THE CIRCLE, a world premiere written and performed by Mashuq Mushtaq Deen and directed by Chay Yew, at 7:30 p.m. Aug. 24-27 and 2 and 7:30 p.m. Aug. 28 in the Elizabeth Price Kenan Theatre in the Center for Dramatic Art, 150 Country Club Rd., Chapel Hill, NC 27514, on the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill campus, presented as part of PRC2.
TICKETS: $15 and up.
BOX OFFICE: 919-962-7529 or http://tickets.playmakersrep.org/single/SYOS.aspx?p=10392.
PRESENTER: http://www.playmakersrep.org/, https://www.facebook.com/playmakersrep, https://twitter.com/playmakersrep, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/PlayMakers_Repertory_Company, and http://www.youtube.com/user/PlayMakersRep.
PRC BLOG (Page to Stage): http://playmakersrep.blogspot.com/.
NOTE: A talkback with the artists and selected subject-matter experts will follow each performance.
Mashuq Mushtaq Deen (Brooklyn, NY-based playwright and performer): http://deentheplaywright.weebly.com/ (official website), https://playmakersrep.org/artists/mashuq-mushtaq-deen/ (PlayMakers Rep bio), https://www.dramatistsguild.com/memberdirectory/getmembership.aspx?cid=41565 (Dramatists Guild), http://newdramatists.org/mashuq-mushtaq-deen (New Dramatists), https://www.facebook.com/mashuq.deen (Facebook page), and https://twitter.com/mashuqdeen (Twitter page).
Chay Yew (Singapore-born New York City director and Victory Gardens Theater artistic director): http://victorygardens.org/about/staff/chay-yew/ (Victory Gardens Theater bio), http://www.playmakersrep.org/artists/chay-yew/ (PlayMakers Rep bio), and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chay_Yew (Wikipedia).
Martha Keravuori is a life-long theater artist — an actress, director, and stage manager — in North Carolina, around the country, and overseas. She has a theater degree from UNC-Greensboro, and has been active in the arts in Raleigh for the past 40 years. Martha is the retired executive director of the North Carolina Theatre Conference. Chuck Galle returned to Raleigh last year after a 17-year absence. He was active in community theater for many years, and directed the troupe of maximum-security inmates at Raleigh’s Central Prison known as the Central Prison Players. In New England, he performed on stage, on TV, and in films. He is the author of Stories I Never Told My Daughter — An Odyssey, which can be ordered on his website: http://www.chuckgalle.com/. Chuck Galle and Martha Keravuori review theater for Boom! Magazine of Cary. Click here to read more of their reviews for Boom! Magazine and here to read more of their reviews for Triangle Review and Triangle Arts and Entertainment.