A Theatre Mirror Reviews - "Circles of Time"

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note: entire contents copyright 2003 by Larry Stark

"Circles of Time"

by Shirley Timmreck
Directed by Daniel Gidron

Producers Ed Bullins & Mort Kaplan
Choreography by Carl Thomsen
Set Designed Brynna Bloomfield
Lighting Designed by Scott Pinkney
Sound by Dewey Dellay
Costumes Designed by Janet Bobscean
Wardrobe Mistress Akiba Abaka
Stage Manager Geoffrey Savage


Louisa Lindsley..............June Lewin
Clarice johnson.........Robbie McCauley
Carter Johnson.....George Pendleton III
Amy Rockwell-Jones.......Sydelle Pittas
Mabelle McAllister.....Patricia Pellows
Martha Harper...............Alice Duffy
Enid Muller...............Lynne Moulton
Emilie...............Eliza Rose Fichter

Shirley Timmreck's "Circles of Time" is a fragile butterfly of a play, as delicate and vulnerable as her quartet of residents at the Twin Oaks Retirement Home --- women with little left but memories who know that unless forced to transfer to a nursing-home, there is only one way any of them will leave the Home. The production --- with a lovely, airy set by Brynna Bloomfield and Janet Bobscean's frilly, flowing costumes --- is an ambitious attempt by Kaplan/Bullins Productions to give these mostly Equity actors a chance to deal with ageing and death in theatrical terms.

At the center of the play is June Lewin, playing a new resident with a, what --- an obsession? a fantasy? or, perhaps, a formula, a technique for living through whatever life she has left? Act one sees her, in her first few days at the Home, as others do: from the outside. She is distant, often incoherent, and speaking at times to people only she can see. The Home's administrator (Lynne Moulton) worries that such a person will require special attention from the staff, attention a nursing-home (a warehouse for the dying) would be better able to provide.

But that staff (Robbie McCauley & George Pendleton III) --- a A Negro couple (This IS Alabama after all!) not yet ready to accept retirement --- see a special glimmer in this new resident and are willing to go the extra mile and even to hide their ministrations from an administrator who is more a bookkeeper than a person.

In act two, the three other residents in this wing (and the audience) are invited into this fantasy-world of circles in time --- or are they mere memories? lucid dreams? They are certainly healing experiences! For Patricia Pellows as a retired milliner it allows her to relive the long love-affair she had with a married man while making hats for First Ladies. It gives Sydelle Pittas, widowed by the war, a chance to tell her dead husband that he sired a lovely son. Even Alice Duffy's gruffly angry professor of English has her no-nonsense realist melt enough to admit her resentment at being the ugliest bridesmaid at all her friends' marriages.

Do they really re-live it? They certainly move and look and feel younger! Their whirling dance at midnight meetings might be the ungodly gift of an old, White Tituba --- but the exhausted quartet certainly looks brighter and better every morning after dancing all night! And all of this serves to prepare everyone for the entrance of Eliza Rose Ficter, stepping briefly through a solid pane of glass as .... well, that final mystery must be revealed only to paying customers!

"Circles of Time" is a fable teaching us all how to grow old with relaxed dignity. It's the sort of play you wish were really true. A butterfly of a play.

Why, I wonder, did the GLOBE send a hired assassin to smash it to bits with a baseball bat? (I've heard that friends of cast-members had their interest dampen by second-thoughts after reading only that one review --- the only one that matters in Boston!) Doesn't all that effort from cast, producers, and from Director Daniel Gidron deserve to be judged on its own, instead of one warped reflection in a cracked mirror? Can't people make up Their OWN Minds anymore?
I mean, Why believe the GLOBE? Why believe even me when you can see and judge for yourselves?


"Circles of Time" (7 - 23 August)
@ The Lyric Stage Company, 140 Clarendon Street, BOSTON, MA
1 (617) 437-7172

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide