Saturday was packed with events: Cinco de Mayo, the Kentucky Derby and the “super moon.” It was also the first sunny day in recent memory. Amidst all the hubbub, Mad Horse Theatre Company slipped in the opening night of “Circle Mirror Transformation,” the final production for the theater’s 26th season.

The play, written by New England playwright Annie Baker, provides a behind-the-scenes, introspective look at the lives of five would-be actors. Schultz (Brent Askari), Theresa (Janice Gardner) and Lauren (Olywyn Moxhay) have signed up for a six-week drama class, taught by Marty (Maureen Tannian Butler). Marty’s husband, James (Payne Ratner), also attends as morale support for his wife.

Over the six weeks, connections are forged and broken, and the lives and secrets of the characters are gradually revealed. Mad Horse’s talented cast subtly allows the characters’ emotions to slowly bubble to the surface.

In keeping with the play’s title, scenic designer Christopher Price has constructed a set reminiscent of a dance studio, with mirrors lining the back wall. The mirrors serve as an analogy for the play, and a clever way to literally show all sides of the actors and their characters. They also visually place the audience into the play as voyeurs, all the while forcing those watching to contemplate their own images staring back at them.

People are rarely satisfied with the person they see in the mirror, and most have some hope, desire or intimate secret they keep hidden behind their outer veneer. Through a series of acting exercises and games, Baker’s five characters are forced to look beyond the literal mirror and see themselves reflected in the eyes of their classmates.

The characters all learn something about themselves that they were previously unwilling to admit, or just too blinded by the glare of the mirror to see. It’s an uncomfortable process for the characters, translated to the audience through pregnant pauses and frequent silence.

“Circle Mirror Transformation” isn’t a play about action. The members of the class, much to the disappointment of Lauren, never even see a script. It’s a snapshot into the everyday lives of the characters, with the only real purpose or goal being self-discovery.

Mad Horse Theatre’s five-member cast, under the direction of David Currier, inconspicuously bare their characters’ souls for the audience’s scrutiny, drawing from their own experiences as actors who have countless times been the ones in the room, getting to know their fellow cast members.

April Boyle is a freelance writer from Casco. She can be contacted at:

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