“Circle Mirror Transformation” Takes Audiences Behind the Curtain

The acting is brilliant in this production in which actors play people who are trying to be actors.

It’s a two-hour, no-intermission staged reality show about theatre. A community center offers a 6-week creative drama course. A free-spirited teacher takes a class of 4 through weekly acting exercises. Although the activities seem daft, the sequential progression is an internal metamorphosis played out profoundly on the stage. The characters learn not to act but to live.

From entrance into the upstairs theatre, it feels like stumbling into the Victory Gardens’ rehearsal space. Set Designer Grant Sabin has mirrored a rehearsal studio to perfection. Dropped ceiling, smudged mirror, tiled hallway—the details add to the realism. The actors’ stammering and comments are so authentic they seem improvised.

Under the masterful direction of Dexter Bullard, this cast is outstanding at playing non-actors. Carmen Roman (Marty) is magnificent. Roman is equal parts down-to-earth and touchy-feely-new-age, with just a hint of frustrated instructor. Blossoming over the course of the play, Rae Gray (Lauren) plays teenage angst with memorable distinction.

The entire ensemble grounds the fantasy in a realism illusion. “Circle Mirror Transformation” is a literal glimpse into the actors’ studio.

“Circle Mirror Transformation” plays through April 20 at the Victory Gardens Biograph Theater, 2433 N. Lincoln. Tickets are $20-$50 and are available by calling 773-871-3000 or at victorygardens.org.