Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Boston

Circles of Time

When two distinguished and respected members of the Boston theatre community, playwright Ed Bullins and director Mort Kaplan, decide to take on the role of producers, the resulting effort is anything by half hearted.

They engaged noted director Daniel Gidron (responsible for the world premiere of Golda's Balcony), assembled a splendid design team for the sets and lights (the talented Brynna Bloomfield and Scott Pinkney), found an impressive composer / sound designer (Deley Dellay, whose music for the Nora Theatre's Betrayal was captivating) and hired out The Lyric Stage, one of Boston's loveliest venues.

(front to back): Patricia Pellows, June Lewin, Sydelle Pittas
And while cast members June Lewin (Louisa), Alice Duffy (Martha), Patricia Pellows (Mabelle) and Sydelle Pittas (Amy) are captivating as octogenarian residents of an upscale Baton Rouge retirement home, the world premiere of Shirley Timmreck's play Circles of Time doesn't measure up. At least not yet.

Timmreck, in her eighties herself, is an artist who took up playwrighting after retiring to Homer, Alaska from her native Louisiana. Four of her plays have been produced there, and she's received recognition and encouragement as a participant in the renowned Last Frontier Theatre Conference Playlab Competition in Valdez, Alaska.

Bullins, a judge at the 2000 competition, was so taken with the original incarnation of this play - then a musical simply called Louisa - that he decided to mentor its development. He has since guided the project through two staged readings (one at the Abingdon Theater in New York City, the other at Playwright's Theatre in Boston) and, with the help of his longtime friend Kaplan, mounted this fully realized production. Along the way, characters were rethought and the score was dropped.

While the change of title is a welcome improvement, turning it into a straight play hasn't solved everything. Circles of Time still feels like a libretto with numerous short scenes in need of something more to provide additional color, definition, a wash of feeling and the necessary thrust to keep the story moving forward.

There is an enchanting, "other-worldly" notion at the core of Circles of Time, not unlike a satisfying Alice Hoffman novel. In its present form, however, we must wait until after the act break to reach the heart of the idea and be taken up by it.

The play is burdened with extraneous subplots involving the staff at Twin Oaks that detract from the central conflict of Louisa's need to live in her memories while everyone else misguidedly tries to keep her in the present.

There is also a huge reliance on a practical sliding glass door that isn't in keeping with the ethereal look of the rest of the set and, ultimately, proves to be too distracting to serve the play well.

The use of a secondary character as a narrator - one who isn't privy to the most important events of the play - is also unnecessary. That device, along with the many scenes where characters either tell each other exposition or soliloquize about themselves, suggests that a short story on the page might better serve the fascinating tale Timmreck has to tell.

Circles of Time is presented by Kaplan/Bullins Productions at the Lyric Stage, 140 Clarendon Street (the YWCA building in Copley Square) through August 23. Performances are Wednesday thru Sunday at the following times: Wednesdays, 2pm and 7:30pm; Thursdays, 7:30pm; Fridays, 8pm; Saturdays, 4pm and 8pm; Sundays, 3pm. Ticket prices range from $20 to $35; for reservations call (617) 437-7172.

Photo: John Earle

Be sure to check the current schedule for theatre in the Boston area.

- Suzanne Bixby

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