Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Round and Round and Round in the Circle Game

Jack Grapes (far right) and Company in a quiet moment before Circle of Will at The Macha Theatre. Photo by Alexis Fancher.

Circle of Will

Many years ago I participated in a production of “Impromptu” by Tad Mosel. It’s a one act that places four characters on a bare stage and makes them figure out who they are and what they are supposed to do. It’s a great exercise in an existential examination of who we are and what we are doing and where we are going. Of course, we’d go nuts if we spent too much time dealing with this stuff. However, a few great playwrights: Beckett, Ionesco, Pirandello... did that and basically made the audience do a lot of the work about figuring out who Godot might be, if he exists and if, ever, he might come, etc. Circle of Will is a less cumbersome play than any of the aforementioned writers' efforts, but it does bring up some issues and addresses them in a most amusing and entertaining way. Okay, an hilarious way. Way hilarious.

I loved this show.

Written by Jack Grapes & Bill Cakmis, Circle of Will features Grapes as Will and Joe Briggs as Richard “Dirk” Burbage at The Macha Theater in WeHo. Formerly, The Globe, this crusty little theater survives with its art. It’s a perfect setting for Circle of Will in that the feeling of The Globe (Shakespeare’s Globe) persists for what is … at least for a time… between 1610 and 1616. The Tempest was written in 1610.. happy 400th to Caliban (whom I saw in the persona of John Ritter in this very theater before we came to know what Ritter could really do), Miranda and all.

Notable as Eunuchs One and Two, Cuthbert (John Brocato) and Quincey (Josh Grapes), entertain and introduce the play. A rich atmosphere of 1970's Renaissance Pleasure Faire permeates their foreplay. Juggling takes practice. (Note to Eunuchs: practice juggling.)

Shakespeare struggles as he attempts to cobble together ideas he’s had brewing for a long time with what may become his last play, “Gonzago and the King” (which Burbage dubs a ‘footstool’ because it weighs a ton and looks like… well… a footstool.) Then, troubles are afoot as the argument morphs, literally into a quantum continuum exploration of the meaning of meaning, more or less.

Director Brian Herskowitz keeps his actors in the moment, which, as the play progresses becomes more and more of a challenge. Martin C. Vallejo’s set allows for some farcical shenanigans. “Shenanigans” being the best description of the entire goings on. There are lots of shenanigans, clever puns and literary references. And, as the story bounds and leaps and leaps and bounds through time, some very interesting deeper thoughts emerge. A lot of scholarly thought has gone into this script and the business that every play encounters with every audience becomes problematic. What’s real? What’s fantasy? Where are we now? When are we going to get there? And, then? What then?

Eavesdropping on any actor symposium will find us discussing ‘being in the moment’ and playing the reality of the characters. Will and Burbage go round and round (it’s a Circle of Will, after all) in the attempt to satisfy Dirk’s enormous ego and get this last endeavor of the Bard’s together in time for previews in a few days. Burbage is tired of playing women and just wants to be a leading man for a change. As Will and Burbage deconstruct (or self destruct), the question of who’s who and what’s what becomes more entangled. Simply put, it’s wonderful. At the risk of trying to be too clever, the only way find yourself breathless with laughter and at the same time questioning what Life is
really all about is to go to see this show. Check into the Time Warp and then decide for yourself.

Appearances of a large
ephemeral cast, feature Stephanie Nguyen doubling as some body and the stage manager, Steve Roland (Gonzago), Bob Downing as The King, Peter Funt plays Nicholas Bishop, Bert Connors is Thomas Heywood, and Michael Kzynenski as Julius Caesar. Cynthia Tyson limns Lady Macbeth, the androgynous C. J. Potter (a flawless Ophelia). Pam Bohusalv is regal as The Queen, Romona of Verona is played by Christiana Bolaslavsky (no relation to Richard with an ‘e’), Sherrod Klippel as Prospero. Lady Prospero disappears as Lucinda van de Velde, Cynthia Connors plays Miranda of Naples, Capulet (Omar Truzdale) and Grizelda of Beaujolais (Christa Marsh) round out the cast.
Lynda Goodfriend does not appear in this production.

Costumes by Anasuya Engle and Sound and Lighting by Carey Dunn are all just fine.

Just go see this play.

Circle of Will
Macha Theater
1107 N. Kings Road
West Hollywood, CA 90069
Thursday through Saturday at 8PM
Sundays at 7PM
Reservations: 323 960 7822
Through August 15, 2010
$30 top

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