Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: San Diego

The Breakup Breakdown
Circle Circle dot dot

Also see Bill's review of Amadeus

Circle Circle dot dot
Circle Circle dot dot is a new theatre company in San Diego. Composed of people who appear to be in their twenties, the troupe joins Triad Productions (and there is some cross-pollination between the two groups) in deliberately striving to bring young people into the theatre. Triad tends to stage challenging works in a contemporary manner, while Circle Circle dot dot describes itself as a theatre collective that develops new work collaboratively. The company's collaborators seem to be pretty happy about the experience, at least from the looks of the company's website, which includes a blog, YouTube videos, and pictures that had been posted on Flickr.

So, when you're starting out, write about what you know, right? Circle Circle dot dot's first project is called The Breakup Breakdown, and it's a comedy made by director Katherine Harroff from the cast's stories of memorably bitter break-ups. It's kind of a cross between Fellini Satyricon and "Saturday Night Live," except on a budget. And I have to say that it didn't appeal to me much, but then I'm not in this group's target audience.

Five couples—four straight, one lesbian—break up in separate episodes at the beginning of the play. The break-ups are bitter, with a lot of name-calling and truth-telling, but the episodes leave both members of the couple lonely and to some degree confused. Different characters cope in different ways. Some engage in casual sex, some drink or do drugs, some get angry and pick fights, some seek comfort in another's arms (or the arms of the former lover), and one even goes off by himself and mopes. Cupid (Julio Jacobo, a large man who spends the evening nearly naked) hangs about trying to intervene, but without much success (and, hence, the reference to Fellini Satyricon). All of the couples try getting back together again. Most don't succeed.

The piece is very episodic, and sketch-like (hence the "Saturday Night Live" reference). Some of the bits are funny, some fall flat. The cast also sings (cast member Kyle Sorrell serves as musical director), sometimes reasonably well, but most of the time it just sounds like someone strumming a guitar and others casually making an effort to find the notes and the words.

Cynically, the plot comes down to this: relationships are fun when the sex and partying are good and not so much fun when you have to deal with the other person as a person. Then it gets boring pretty fast and people end up being jerks. I'm sure that I've oversimplified the lesson, and I wonder if it's really the take-away message that the cast intended when they concocted this sex-and-substances fantasy. I hope I'm wrong. In five years, I hope that group will look back on what was clearly a terrific experience for them and realize that not only were they off-base but in their enthusiasm they forgot to let the audience in on the joke.

The quality of the performances is pretty well correlated with the number of professional and semi-professional credits held by each cast member. At the top of the heap and deserving of special praise is Jacque Wilke. Ms. Wilke has worked around town a fair amount; in fact, her monologue as an Iowa mother whose son had AIDS was by far the best thing about Diversionary's production of The New Century eighteen months ago. Ms. Wilke not only refuses to indulge in over-acting but she finds more than a little nuance to play in a script where nuance is fairly well ignored.

Still, I could be an old fuddy-duddy whose opinions should be ignored. I hope not, and I wish the company a good learning experience and a better show the next time out.

The Breakup Breakdown runs through July 10 at downtown's 10th Avenue Theatre, 930 Tenth Avenue, between Broadway and E Streets. Tickets ($20 with discounts for students, seniors, and military) available online or at the door. Parking in the area can be tough on Padre home game nights, so plan ahead.

The Breakup Breakdown, written and directed by Katherine Harroff with Circle Circle dot dot. With Ashley Toolan, assistant director; Patrick Kelly, set design; Melissa Coleman-Reed & Katherine Harroff, costume design; Areta MacKelvie, lighting design; Matt Lescault-Wood, sound design and graphic design; Adrian Brown, projection design and stage manager; Blythe Barton, choreography; Kyle Sorrell, musical direction, and Crystal Mercado, puppet master.

Featuring Brendan Cavalier, Samantha Ginn, Julio Jacobo, Patrick Kelly, Evan Kending, Crystal Mercado, Soroya Rowley, Melissa Coleman-Reed, Wendy Savage, Kyle Sorrell, and Jacque Wilke.

Photo: Courtesy Circle Circle dot dot

See the current season schedule for the San Diego area.

- Bill Eadie

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