An awkward comedy reflects on human foibles

Get ready to “feel the awkward”.

CAST Theater and Columbia Center for the Arts present Annie Baker’s “Circle Mirror Transformation,” a dramatic comedy about the things that are revealed when new and old relationships force people to take a close look at themselves.

“CMT” won the 2010 Obie Award for Best New American Play. Circle Mirror Transformation opens on May 9 at Columbia Center for the Arts.

Tickets and Times

‘Circle Mirror Transformation” opens May 9-11 at CAST Theater and continues on May 16-18 at 7:30 p.m.

On May 12 there will be a matinee at 2 p.m.

Tickets are $15 for adults, $12 for students and seniors (62 and over), $8 for children 11 and under and $10 for groups of ten or more.

Tickets are available at Columbia Arts and Waucoma Bookstore in Hood River and online at www.columbiaarts....

The play has two 45-minute acts with a 15-minute intermission.

“CMT” is suitable for mature teens. It deals with themes including adultery, divorce and spousal abuse, and contains some adult language.

The action all takes place in an adult drama class, but “CMT” is more than a “play within a play.” The setting is one where artifice and the realities of human interaction yield results that are surprising, humorous, and, yes, awkward.

Set in a Vermont small town, an unlikely collection of strangers sign up for an “Adult Creative Drama” class taught by Marty (Kathleen Morrow).

People who start out as strangers make assumptions about their own feelings and those of others, leading to emotional complications that are at turns comical and painful.

The students are Schultz (David Dye) a recently divorced carpenter; Teresa (Lisa Roth-Baisden), a former actress; a high school junior (Isabel Martin), and Marty’s husband, James (Bruce Ludwig.)

“The best art is the simplest art, and ‘Circle Mirror Transformation’ is simple,” said director Tom Burns. “There are no hidden parts, nothing where you don’t understand what’s going on. It’s simple and direct.”

“These characters learn way more about each other than they expect to at the start, and find that things go far deeper than they thought they ever would,” Burns said.

“It seems to me they were in love,” one character says of two others in a turning point in “CMT.”

The play’s title may seem bulky but it refers to a cause-and-effect that quickly becomes clear: the drama class participants start each week in a circle and engage in exercises, planned and unplanned, that reveal much about themselves, and this changes each of the participants over the course of the summer.

The group plays Marty’s imaginative (and sometimes awkward) theatre games, but as their relationships develop over the course of the summer, the seemingly silly games generate some real-life drama.

“It is both hilarious and moving,” Burns said of “Circle Mirror Transformation”

“This is that rare new play that is both extremely accessible and incredibly intelligent,” Burns said.

“At first I liked it for the behind-the-scenes aspect of the story, but then I found the dialog to be wonderful, with overlapping lines, spaced with pauses and ‘ums’ and ‘uhs.’ it sounds natural, the way people really talk.

“And I got sucked in by the relationships, the coming-and-going, the surprises and everything that happens between these five people,” Burns said.

Burns employs an easel with butcher paper, on stage, spelling out “Week 1,” “Week 2,” and so on, with lists of class activities for each session — a visual aid for the audience and a prompt to help the actors keep track of the specifics among the total of 30 different scenes. Producer Kathy Williams and stage manager Adrian Chaton – “my Ninjas – they just invisibly get things done,” Burns said – are assisted back stage by Emma Spaulding and Dell Charity.

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