A Review

Spinning Their Wheels

By R. J. Donovan

With very little advance word, a new play has arrived on the scene, presented at Lyric Stage by Kaplan/Bullins productions.

"Circles of Time," by Shirley Timmreck, tells the tale of Louisa Lindsley, the newest resident of the Twin Oaks Retirement Home in Louisiana. While Louisa appears to be sleeping a lot, she's actually having a swell time in her head.

If only the audience were as lucky.

The one dimensional, tissue paper thin plot revolves around Louisa and three elderly residents at the retirement center along with: Clarice, dutiful assistant at the center; Carter, handyman and husband of Clarice; Miss Muller, administrator; and Emilie, from Ms. Lindsley's past.

Louisa, played by June Lewin, makes her arrival late at night amidst a horrendous thunder storm. Carter the handyman is immediately drawn to her. If the fascination is supposed to be a mystery, it's a good one, because it's never solved or explained.

Louisa seems confused. Is Louisa just tired, or is Louisa lacking mental capacities? As written, this, too, is unclear. She's sharp as a bell one minute and rambling the next. Again, no real development.

Louisa eventually lets it slip to her fellow residents that she secretly escapes the doldrums of reality by traveling through time, mentally. She simply picks out a past event that pleases her, and then jumps to another "circle of time."

With a little coaxing, she "teaches" her co-residents to do the same via a method that's best described as minimalistic. Close your eyes, clutch your chest, roll your head around a little and boom! -- you're wherever you want to be.

The ladies then spend an interminable amount of time running back and forth to their off-stage rooms to "practice."

All of this is played out in a string of disjointed mini-scenes that seem more like an outline that a story. The term mini-scenes overstates the case. Three or four lines followed by the lights dimming do not a scene make. And without some solid interaction between the characters, the audience never has anything to bite into. Characters slip on and off stage like strangers on a subway car -- there's never enough time for anything of substance to occur before the next stop interrupts things.

While all the actors have considerable credits, almost none of them seem comfortable with their roles. The situation is clear from the first minute when Robbie McCauley steps from the shadows as Clarice, who's not only part of the story but also narrates it. She appears completely uneasy, at times stammering as though she doesn't quite remember her lines. Aside from being unnerving, it leaves the audience without a commanding guide into the story. Unfortunately, the story itself is so uninteresting, it doesn't much matter. Emotions are not expressed, they're talked about. Relationships are not revealed, they're referenced.

The only actor who grabs hold of her role is Alice Duffy as hard nosed retired college professor, Martha. A veteran of such shows as "Dead End" at the Huntington and "Mornings At Seven" at the Lyric, Duffy works hard to create something that holds your attention. Unfortunately, the script offers little help,
especially when Martha suddenly softens and confesses her entire life has been based on jealousy.

For the record, the rest of the company includes George Pendelton III (Carter), Sydelle Pittas (Amy), Patricia Pellows (Mabelle), Lynne Moulton (Enid) and Eliza Rose Fichter (Emilie). Daniel Gidron is credited as director.

"Circles of Times” is at Lyric Stage, 140 Clarendon Street in Boston through August 23. For information, call 617-437-7172.

-- OnStage Boston



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