Review: The Circle (Tarragon Theatre)

daniel_ellis_jake_vanderham_brian_solomon_jakob_ehman_vivien_endicott-douglas_nikki_duval_in_the_circle_photo_by_cylla_von_tiedemann

The Circle brings teenage archetypes and a suburban garage to Toronto’s Tarragon Theatre

I was excited for The Circle, currently on stage at the Tarragon Extraspace, as I thought it was going to be a modern Breakfast Club experience. While the two stories share a couple of characters and themes, The Circle is a darker look into modern teenage life with the characters’ need for home, acceptance, and familial belonging at the forefront.

The Circle brings together teenage archetypes Amanda the genius (Vivien Endicott-Douglas), Ily the drug dealer (Jakob Ehman), Mutt/Tyler the mess (Brian Solomon), Kit the runaway (Nikki Duval), Will the kid with ADHD (Daniel Ellis), and Daniel the son of a priest (Jake Vanderham) for a garage party that isn’t supposed to be a “party”.

Ily knows Mutt from when they were kids, and Will is Amanda’s good friend who is bringing his new guy Daniel around for the first time. Kit tags along with Mutt for reasons we find out later on.

Brian Solomon as Mutt was a highlight, playing the off-kilter character with an edge, enough so that I did believe Mutt was capable of anything. His was a tragic character—rejected by his family—who has had to fight his whole life for just an ounce of acceptance. When things go south and Mutt doesn’t repent, Solomon sells the downfall with a crazed energy and sociopathic belief in himself.

My sympathy for Mutt only ran so deep, however, as the character did say some pretty abhorrent things and showed—via his creepy interactions with Amanda—that he had less than honourable intentions towards her and his old friend Ily.

Speaking of Ily, Ehman played him with a perfect teenage suburban underachieving flair. I said to my guest afterwards that I’ve met Ily before, I’ve worked with Ily, I’ve played sports with Ily, and I feel that is a testament to Ehman’s dedication and commitment to bringing this archetype to life.

What is The Circle about? On our walk back from the show, my guest and I asked this question many times. On the surface, it is about these characters hanging out in Amanda’s garage, which also happens to be Ily’s apartment, but when everything was said and done, we struggled to find the true core of the story. With the exception of Mutt, and Kit to an extent, each character had little at stake, which made us question our emotional investment in them.

That being said, we understood Daniel’s reticence with wanting to commit to a relationship with Will, because of Daniel’s religious upbringing and fear of hell, but I felt this could have been explored further beyond a quick, mid-point establishing scene. In addition, Mutt and Kit’s stakes weren’t revealed until deep into the story. Their short scene fueled the emotional impact of the story’s climax, but because the scenes were placed so close together it felt as though some of that impact was lost with the epiphany of Mutt and Kit’s situation being revealed a tad late.

Kudos to Set Designer Patrick Lavender for making the space look and feel like the sparse suburban garage it was meant to be. Virtually no part of the set or its dressings went unused and I felt this worked well for the show as Ily, at his age, would only have things in his life that he would actually use due to his no frills lifestyle.

While I questioned parts of The Circle, I do think good theatre—and good stories in general—is meant to illicit discussion from the audience afterwards. With respect to the show, my main question was, “what was it all about?” This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. In its final moments, The Circle succeeded in aligning that question with, what I think, is the main question asked near the end of life, which is also, “what was it all about”?

Details

  • The Circle is playing until November 27, 2016 at Tarragon Theatre Extraspace (30 Bridgman Avenue)
  • Shows run Tuesday to Saturday at 8pm, Sundays at 2:30pm, with additional 2:30pm matinees on Saturday October 29th, and Saturday November 5th
  • Ticket prices range from $55-$60, $49 for seniors, $29 for students, and are available online or through the box office at (416) 531-1827
  • Mature Language, stage smoking and drug use, light gore

Photo of Daniel Ellis, Jake Vanderham, Brian Solomon, Jakob Ehman, Vivien Endicott-Douglas, and Nikki Duval by Cylla von Tiedemann