Without doubt, Suzanne Bachner is the outstanding playwright of the moment; she is possibly the most commercially promising as well. Circle, her modern-day adaptation of Schnitzler's La Ronde at the "2001: A Spotlight on Festival Odyssey" now through March 24, is also possibly the best production currently on the Off-Off-Broadway boards.
With gleeful acidity, Circle explores issues of sex, power, desire, and intimacy. Taking place in 2001 in Los Angeles and New York City, 10 diverse characters are linked through a daisy-chain of sexual contact; as they meet in pairs in Starbucks, in an S&M dungeon, in a bedroom, in a kitchen, and in cyberspace, they strive for a deeper connection with one another. And it is this issue of connection that gives the play its topical, deep-rooted power. Yes, it is facile; yes it is laugh-out-loud funny; and yes, it is sexually explicit to the point of raunch. But Bachner has a way of getting down and dirty with elegance and aplomb, and she digs beneath the bubbly wit of her characters with a sharp scalpel, exposing the dark underbelly of contemporary mores. And director Trish Minskoff's visually stunning production (white set, black costumes, and red props, courtesy of Minskoff, Nadia Volvic, and Deborah Alves, respectively) was so perfectly attuned to Bachner's verbal rhythms that the overall effect was dazzling. The breathless pacing and seamless staging, punctuated by marvelous lighting and extremely appropriate sound effects (John Tees III and Alexander R. Warner), allowed the brilliant ensemble (Bob Celli, Thaddeus Daniels, Felicia Scarangello, and Judy Turkisher) the leeway to play with their 10 characters with a jazzy, freewheeling inventiveness seldom encountered in theatre on any level. They were all superb.
The one question remaining is this: if French playwright Yasmina Reza (Art, Life x 3) can find overwhelming commercial success with works just as facile (and far more shallow), why isn't one of our country's major producing organizations grabbing Bachner and exposing her talents to a wider audience? She is that good. As is Circle. Try to see it.
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Copyright 2001 Doug DeVita