A Play in Circles, A Circular Play by Gertrude Stein
A play ahead of its time, composed by the great impresario of ex-patriot 20th Century Europe, Gertrude Stein, this work remains a mystery, and seeing it staged in, of all places, Greenville, North Carolina, adds to its enigmatic quality.
This powerful piece directed by Dani Keil and acted by Kinston native Lauren Melton Lewis, and Ukrainian born Kate Ker, is an extraordinary commitment to performance. It’s a telltale sign of professionalism and trust that is imperative to make an opaque piece move forward in a cognitive manner. The lack of ego and hubris, the absence of pretension and artifice, draws the viewer into difficult situations where a search for meaning is futile and the force of experience is essential.
The core theme of the play is language. Who owns it? Who defines it? Who creates it? Is it man? Is it woman?
Kiel explores the use of speech through interpretive action. The casting of a non-English speaking actor is brilliant. Ker’s vocalizations challenge traditional tropes of our pedestrian language in a myriad of ways. You sit transfixed by her beauty and confounded by pronunciation. Once you deal with your own deficiency, you start to hear and see the play. Eventually, you relax into stories and interpretations of people, surrendering to their humanity. Two human experiences. In tandem, apart. Together. Not actors in a play, but beings in life. The native English speaker, Lewis, evokes story and theme with her body in motion and at rest, as well as with her melodious elocution. Ker is like Lewis's musical counterpart in moment after beautiful, poignant moment. Just gorgeous work of movement and rest.
I have seen Richard Foreman and the Wooster Group. I can honestly say this performance rivals the best of them. Kudos Dani Keil and Whirligig for having the stones to take on this text.