Circle Mirror Transformation – Annie Baker
Four lost souls enroll in a six-week theater workshop in a community center in Vermont taught by a MARTY, a 55-yr old woman. The entrants are – JAMES, 60, man; SCHULTZ, 48, man; THERESA, 35, woman and LAUREN, 16, girl. Slowly, over the six weeks we learn about each character – even the instructor – as alliances are formed and broken. MARTY uses a wide variety of unique acting exercises which forces the whole quintet to re-examine themselves and their ideas of other people. A poignant and heartbreaking play that has a powerful final scene where we can see that their “acting” in the workshop has affected the “acting” in their real lives. Set in Vermont. It is also part of Baker’s Vermont cycle of plays.
The Motherfucker With the Hat – Stephen Adly Guirgis
A tale of AA and l’amour fou between drug dealer JACKIE and his girl VERONICA. RALPH D is JACKIE’S AA sponsor who tries to help his troubled sponsee transition back into the real world without relapsing. JACKIE has marital troubles with his put-upon wife VICTORIA. When JACKIE comes home to see a hat on the table in his and VERONICA’S place it sets off the chain of events in the play which will test his sobriety. He seeks advice from his COUSIN JULIO who forces JACKIE to confront some ugly truths about himself and his relationship. Addictions – drugs and relationships – are put under the microscope as the fallout from the hat ripples through their lives. The play is chock full of crackling dialogue and powerful emotions. Set in New York City.
Detroit – Lisa D’Amour
Set in a “first-ring suburb” which may be Detroit or any middle-American city. Middle-aged couple BEN and MARY ingratiate themselves into the lives of their new neighbors – an early 30’s couple KENNY and SHARON. MARY has grown tired of living in the burbs and never knowing who any of your neighbors anymore. She gets more than she bargained for as both KENNY and SHARON slowly reveal their wild drug and alcohol fueled past lives to them over a series of backyard gatherings between the couples. BEN has recently been laid off in the shitty economy so he’s learning how to setup a financial planning website. MARY becomes slightly obsessed with the fact that KENNY and SHARON don’t have any furniture or hardly anything in their house. As the two couples become closer, things start to fall apart as details of KENNY and SHARON’s supposedly former lives blur. The play becomes a real examination into the generational gap between Boomers and hard-partying Gen-Xers. Maybe there’s a reason people don’t hangout and become pals with their neighbors anymore, maybe its because we’ve all become a bit boring holed up in our plywood and plastic homes built in the 50’s and gradually falling apart around us. Maybe those house are our former senses of community. Maybe we have lost our way twisting in the winds of late-stage capitalism, alienated from one another, anesthetized through a myriad of things.
Tribes – Nina Raine
BILLY is the youngest of three. He was born deaf but raised a lip-reading who never learned sign language by his parents CHRISTOPHER and BETH. His older brother DANIEL has just moved back home along with his sister RUTH. Their home is one full of bickering writers and academics whose love for each other is expressed through cutting remarks and verbal sparring. The family tribe is shaken up when BILLY brings home a girl – SYLVIA – who is slowly going deaf. She was raised in a deaf family and encourages BILLY to learn sign. The family tribe is now faced with a fracture it may or may not be prepared to deal with as the notions of communication are turned upside down. The long silent BILLY asserts his new found voice in the contentious family while the others struggle to cope with the impacts. The play focuses with laser precision on the various tribes we form in life, the alliances we form to deal with the world around us. Set in present day – somewhere in England in its original form.
(Read Denver Post’s Lisa Kennedy’s review)
RYU and KATHA are increasingly unhappy and frustrated with life in the 21st century. Especially so after RYU had a miscarriage. She hates her job in publishing while her husband carries on as a plastic surgeon just “getting through” each day. KATHA meets DEAN a mysterious man in 50’s clothes who sells them on the idea of joining the “community” he lives in away from the alienating forces of modern life. The “community” is a period-specific recreation of 1955, an SDO – Society of Dynamic Obsolescence. The SDO is part cult, part re-enactment and part utopian social experiment. DEAN’S wife ELLEN helps KATHA transition while RYU gets a job in a box factory working under ROGER. RYU is the most sceptical of the whole idea but since KATHA’S miscarriage he will do almost anything for another shot at a family. They agree to try the SDO for 6 months. Once they get there and start to get the hang off it they find themselves happier, living in the present more. Of course the outside modern world weighs upon them but actually affects DEAN more than anyone as his former lover is ROGER who is fed up with the charade. Just as KATHA and RYU dig into their new lives with a child on the way, DEAN, ROGER and ELLEN have their illusions shattered. An intriguing concept for a play, sadly I had a very similar idea years ago albeit mine blended the two eras together – 50’s cars that were hybrids, that sort of thing. The first act is the strongest with the second act shifting the story more to DEAN and his love affair with ROGER eclipsing most of RYU and KATHA’S story. This is going to be stage at Curious Theater very soon in 2013.
Clybourne Park – Bruce Norris
(Winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Drama)
A tightly structured and plotted two-act play set in a house in the Clybourne Park neighborhood of Chicago. Act one takes place in 1959 with act two taking place in the same house fifty years later. This Pulitzer Prize winning play examines race, class, economics, military to name just a few of the issues under the lens. The play examines white flight in the late 50’s/60’s and its inverse of white gentrification in the late 90’s/early 00’s. Notions of community and our shared sense of America permeate both acts of this incisive play. A white couple is leaving the neighborhood in 1959 as the father can’t stomach the “community’s” reaction to his son, a returning soldier from the Korean War who was accused of killing innocents in the war. The son eventually hanged himself in the house. His death looms too large for his father who sells the house under market to a black couple. A concerned neighbor wants him to cancel the sale so they can stop the influx of black into the neighborhood. He refuses and tells him what he thinks of them. Fast forward fifty years later and we now have a young white couple moving into the same house who want to raze it and build their dream McMansion. A young black meets with them and a lawyer & architect to ostensibly discuss the zoning violation that their large house violates. This encounter turns into the inverse of the previous act as now the gentrification is the beginning of the turning the neighborhood back into a white enclave from it’s near fifty years of being a black one. There’s a great scene of offensive jokes that leaves out no one – women, gays, black, whites, you name it, like a Don Rickles bit. This part brings up one of the least understood yet deeply important aspects of jokes – what groups do they privilege and at the expense of another group? What values are reinforced by the jokes? Another intriguing take from the play is how far back to we need to go into history to determine who or what group owns that history? 20 years? 50? 100? 500? Who determines the goal posts for this? Fascinating play.