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hilarious and moving play, Circle, is about that most noisily merry and
profoundly distressing of subjects, sex. It is hard to imagine an audience member so
straitlaced, so together, so "normal" that he or she would not see
himself/herself in at least one of its often over-the-top characters. Bees, as we know, do
it, birds do it, and of course educated fleas, but they all do it with more dignity,
equanimity, and singleness of purpose than human beings, who often do it just for
"fun." But therein comes the hilarity, strongly colored in Circle's
serial sexual shenanigans with anger, sadness, violence, manipulation, and dysfunctional
Bachner has taken a form invented by Arthur Schnitzler in his 1896 play
La Ronde, and more recently adapted in David Hare's The Blue
Room. In the first scene Ben and Derek, two married men (Derek is married to a
man) who've already met online, meet in person in a New York Starbucks and after a bit of
banter adjourn to the restroom for an intense quickie. Then we see Derek and his lesbian
friend Karen who has agreed to be impregnated by Derek so that he and his partner can have
a child. Derek and Karen are both virgins, at least as far as heterosexual sex is
concerned, but they eschew the turkey-baster solution (although they have one handy, just
in case) and get it on in a scene that is both touching and absurdly funny.
Then it's Karen and Lois, Lois and Jason, Jason and Evelyn, Evelyn and
Chad, Chad and Rita, Rita and Phil, Phil and Bonnie, and Bonnie and Ben, one of the
fellows the audience met in Starbucks in the first scene. In this daisy-chain journey of
sexual encounters, many permutations are explored--but certainly not all, the human
imagination being too rich for that. New kinks and wrinkles are being invented all the
time, the play implies. Underneath it all, however, as the more serious of the play's
scenes make clear, is the need for love and human contact that goes beyond skin-to-skin.
Ironically, the most moving, and at the same time the most hilarious, scene of all
involves no actual touching at all as two characters have enthusiastic cybersex over the
All ten interlocking characters are played by four actors. Bob Celli
and Felicia Scarangello are especially strong as the cyber-lovers. Judy Charles plays a
powerful movie producer who craves her weekly role-play as a groveling submissive with a
masterly blend of humor and sadness.
The set is extremely, and appropriately, simple. On a slick round
platform, four white cubes and two small white tables provide, in differing combinations,
the entire physical world of the play. The costumes, imaginatively chosen, are all black.
Helping the actors slip from one garment into another, in full view of the audience, is
Danny Wiseman, called the "Undresser." He plays off each one differently,
providing gentle amusement to moments that could be simply dead air. Almost as funny as
the individual scenes themselves are the sound cues between them, provided by Alexander R.
Warner. Yes, the audience is shown clearly, a sexual encounter might indeed sound like a
car crash or like a toilet flushing.
Trish Minskoff provides direction that seems to be in perfect harmony
with the play, creating a fine-tuned combination of serious character development and
New York, March 13, 2002
- Roy Sorrels