Theatre Mirror Reviews - "9 Circles"

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide


"What Happened in Boston, Willie"

Reviews of Current Productions

note: entire contents copyright 2009 by Larry Stark

"9 Circles"

by Bill Cain
Directed by Eric Engel

Lighting and Set Design by John Malinowski
Costume Design by Gail Astrid Buckley
Sound Design & Composition by Dewey Dellay
Stage Manager Marsha Smith

Daniel Edward Reeves.........Jimi Stanton
Woman......................Amanda Collins
Man.......................Will McGarrahan

It's hard to say much about a perfect play except "Go! See for yourself!" --- but I'll try.
When you enter the BCA Plaza space lighting is dim. At first there seems nothing but a glowing white globe of light faintly edged all around in blue. Lighting artist John Malinowski designed the set for "9 Circles" most of which takes place on that raised platform. Behind the playing area are four tall, narrow structures: lockers containing costumes the three players can be glimpsed changing. Two of them --- Amanda Collins and Will McGarrahan --- play several parts. In each case, they step into that circle to confront Daniel Edward Reeves, An American soldier, in Iraq, and after --- brilliantly portrayed by Jimi Stanton.

Gail Astrid Buckley's costumes eloquently create each character, and define a time-period for the nine confrontations. In desert fatigues, McGarrahan is first a unit commander forcing an early discharge (honorable) on a private whose enthusiasm for killing the enemy endangers discipline; in a medal-bedecked captain's uniform he becomes an ex-Army lawyer offering the boy a defense if he will re-enlist; in black, he is a preacher demanding he get right with Jesus before too late; in a black suit, he is a civilian lawyer trying to describe the necessity of his defense of someone who admits he did the crime; and finally he defends Daniel Edward Reeves, from one side of the circle, in a brief trial sequence.

Amanda Collins first appears in a simple black dress as, clip-board in hand, she informs the stunned civilian that he's no in for a D.U.I. but accused of murdering a family of three Iraqis, raping and murdering their 14-year-old daughter then burning her body to cover up the crime; in desert fatigues she is an in-country psychiatrist trying to tease out the frustrating experiences of insurgent combat and buddy loyalties that could account for such acts; and finally in a black suit she is the prosecutor at the trial.

If you think what I have outlined prepares you for the impact of Bill Cain's brilliant play, go see it in its glory. Every inch of the way, there are larger considerations implied. The text is packed with facts like a cluster-bomb full of shrapnel. The very crimes described echo NPR broadcasts. The recruiters suppressed moral reservations to enlist this inarticulate, pugnacious three-time-loser. He's told no doctors supervise executions, but who knows what the criminal might feel, waiting paralysed for his life to implode. It's suggested that publicity in this trial might awaken a sympathy, even merely an awareness of the humanity of the enemy --- and such awareness might make war impossible. Three thousand Americans died on 11-11, but America has already paid five thousand military lives fighting a war still not close to victory. And these only scratch the surface of the wider implications of Bill Cain's play.

At the center of it all, Jimi Stanton is Daniel Edward Reeves. His own play about returning Iraq vets may get a reading during the run of "9 Circles"; he performed in it at Cornerstone Theatre in Los Angeles, and in "Our Town" at Seacoast Rep, but at 22, his bio is at present the shortest in the program.

Like Dewey Dellay's sound compositions, Eric Engel's direction is invisible, yet perfect. And I must thank Suzanne Nutter for finding this play, the Publick Theatre for such a splendid production, and Bill Cain --- not only for founding the fondly remembered Boston Shakespeare Company, but for writing this beautifully unforgetable play.


"9 Circles" (17 March - 9 April)
@ Boston Center for The Arts, 539 Tremont Street, BOSTON MA

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide