BWW Reviews: 9 CIRCLES at Gloucester Stage is Stunning Evening of Theater
I love being a correspondent for Broadwayworld.com. When on vacation, I always try to see an interesting play, no matter where I am. Thankfully, last week I was in Gloucester, Massachusetts, home to the Gloucester Stage Company , who’s Founding Artistic Director, Emeritus, is the distinguished playwright Israel Horovitz.
Well, being a Bostonian, I’ve always wanted to get a chance to attend a GSC performance and I finally got my chance last week and saw the powerful and thought-provoking play 9 CIRCLES.
So, here are my 9 reasons you should not miss it.
1) Let me start with the play. It was inspired from true events during the Iraq war. The story involves a 19 year old from Midland Texas, Pvt. Daniel Reeves, who was honorably discharged. He is then arrested back in the United States for alleged crimes committed during his active duty when he is charged with breaking into a home in Iraq, murdering parents and their child, and then raping and killing a 14 year-old girl. Do not, let me repeat, do not let this serious topic keep you away.
The play went on to win the 2011 Steinberg New Play Award from the American Theatre Critics Association (for an outstanding new play produced anywhere in the US outside of NY) and was performed last year at Boston’s Publick Theatre. It is a psychological thriller. GSC has reunited the cast from that production, Jimi Stanton, Will McGarrahan and Amanda Collins.
2) The playwright, Bill Cain, developed the play at the Ojai Playwrights Conference and South Coast Rep’s Pacific Playwrights Festival (coincidentally, South Coast Rep was named Broadwayworld Regional Theater of the week). It premiered at the Marin Theatre Company in Mill Valley, CA. It is published in the anthology “Acts of War: Iraq and Afghanistan in Seven Plays (Northwestern University Press). Cain, a Jesuit Priest (yes there’s one in the play), takes the title from the nine circles of hell in Dante’s DIVINE COMEDY.
3) The Director, Eric Engel (Artistic Director of the GSC) directed the East Coast premiere at the Publick Theatre and has reassembled the outstanding cast for the two week run at the GSC. He does a masterful job in moving the events through time and getting the most out of his talented cast.
4) Playing the leading role of Pvt. Reeves is Jimi Stanton whose portrayal will stick with you forever. This is an actor’s actor. It’s a complex role which Reeves handles handsomely, whether he’s meeting with his psychiatrist, his attorneys, his time being recruited, and the experience of being in Iraq. He has a great future ahead of him.
5) Will McGarrahan has multiple roles ranging from a Priest, a military attorney, a private attorney, and military personnel. His background says it all. He’s been in almost everything from Noel Coward to Sondheim. He is quite an accomplished actor.
6) Amanda Collins plays various female roles but the one to remember is her turn as Reeves’ psychiatrist. Hers is an amazing performance as well.
7) The lighting and set design by John Malinowski add greatly to the evening. The set is comprised of a white circle in the center of the stage with lockers upstage which are used by all three actors to change into their various costumes. No one leaves the stage. The
lighting is bold when it needs to be, especially at the end.
8) The costumes by Gail Astrid Buckley provide the realism necessary to make the play work. Dewy Dellay is responsible for the Sound Design and is the Composer. I do wish there was more music.
9) Finally, there’s the GSC audience. They laughed often when the humor was certainly necessary. But they were on The Edge of their seats paying close attention to what was happening on stage. At the end of the play, the audience sat stunned and silent as the
actors came out for their bows. Then they left the stage. This was followed by a thunderous ovation. The audience was beckoning the cast to return to the stage which they did and they were greeted with a rousing standing ovation, a heartfelt thank you for an inspired
9 CIRCLES ends Sunday August 26. The Gloucester Stage Company is located at 267 East Main Street, Gloucester, MA. Tickets are $40. Senior citizens and student tickets are $35. Box office is at 978-281-4433 or visit www.gloucesterstage.org.
I hope that the Baltimore/Washington area gets a chance to view this outstanding new play.
The GSC season ends with Beth Henley’s CRIMES OF THE HEART: August 3 to September 16.
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Photo Credit: Gary Ng