Round and Round: a sexfarcetragedy

Theater
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Photograph: courtesy of Realize Theatre Group
Round and Round: a sexfarcetragedy at Realize Theatre Group
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Photograph: courtesy of Realize Theatre Group
Round and Round: a sexfarcetragedy at Realize Theatre Group
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Photograph: courtesy of Realize Theatre Group
Round and Round: a sexfarcetragedy at Realize Theatre Group
4/4
Photograph: courtesy of Realize Theatre Group
Round and Round: a sexfarcetragedy at Realize Theatre Group

Realize Theatre Group at Prop Thtr. By Jenny Magnus. Directed by Zarinah Ali. With Linsey Falls, Mike Krystosek, Tyler Nielsen, Manya Niman. Running time: 1hr 20mins; no intermission.

Theater review by Megan Powell

Realize Theatre Group capably shows us the first two components of the tripartite subtitle of Jenny Magnus’s play. First staged by her company Curious Theatre Branch in 2001, this stylized account of one woman’s tangled relationships with three men (and the men's with each other) is delightfully played out as a smart bedroom farce, complete with disguises and hidden affairs, particularly through the wry comic touches brought by Mike Krystosek and Linsey Falls as two of the entangled. But in spite of their confidence and ambition in mounting Magnus’ theatrical rondel, Realize’s production doesn’t succeed in getting us to feel what’s tragic about the complex proceedings.

The woman (Manya Niman) is challenged by her young lover to reframe their relationship, launching a series of scenes in which Magnus deconstructs the silent, personal struggles about power and vulnerability that make relationships go around. Though the woman is the “continuous catalyst” for these romantic revolutions, as the play unfolds, all of the characters volley, evade, feint and parry with each other. “The coal of the flame is the discourse about the flame,” declares one of them early in the play, which is rich with lines like these. For the most part, the cast can handle Magnus’s serpentine language, but they aren’t able to consistently convey even glimpses of that flame—the passions and fears underneath the words. And a staging that has them rotating through locations on a deep, narrow set and climbing to a second level douses the energy that’s needed to power the character’s intersecting scenes.

In past promotion of the play, Magnus has emphasized its affinity with older plays that deliciously deliberate on romantic entanglements, namely, La Ronde and Les Liaisons Dangereuses. But her script also brings to mind Harold Pinter’s stark and formal meditations on relationships, plays in which every statement, however tiny, is loaded with meaning. There are a lot more words flying around in Round and Round than in Betrayal or Old Times, and while Realize articulates them well enough, there's not much under that surface. Until they get the marriage of the abstract word and the underlying feeling fully wedded, we’re seeing a relationship that’s just going in circles.

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