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Circumference of a Squirrel

a one act, comedy/drama
CATEGORY : COMEDY DRAMA
by John Walch

COMPANY : Aurora Theatre [WEBSITE]
VENUE : Aurora Theatre [WEBSITE]
ID# 3821

SHOWING : September 16, 2010 - October 03, 2010

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PRODUCTION DESCRIPTION

This wild ride features an inner-tube, a bagel, a donut, a lifesaver, a holiday wreath, a tire swing and a cycle of abuse smartly packaged in a darkly comic one-man show. At the center of them all sits an enigmatic squirrel and Chester, the man who spins this outlandish, funny and bruising tale of growing up with an intolerant father who has a rabid hatred for squirrels.

"Walch's intricate script...proceed[s] like an intimate storytelling session...alternately entertaining and heartbreaking...'Circumference of a Squirrel' may at times seem like nothing more than a getting-to-know-you chat, but you'll leave feeling as if you've just caught up with an old friend."
--Tricia Olszewski, Washington Post


CAST & CREW LIST
Director Susan Reid
Chester Daniel May
Click to Submit Cast & Crew Info for this production
REVIEWS

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There's a Hole in the Middle of it All
by Dedalus
Thursday, September 30, 2010
4.5
Well, this is how I see it. John Walch’s “Circumference of a Squirrel” has been criticized (by the New York Times, no less) of being rather empty in the center, much like all the torus imagery falling off the stage like halos (inner tubes, bagels, rings, life-savers, etc etc etc). They took exception to the lack of “backstory” for the supporting cast – particularly Chester’s father and his ex-wife. I don’t know if they noticed or not, but there was only one actor on stage, one character whose story is filled with levels and layers and stories, one character who is constantly seeking to fill that “hole in the middle of it all.” From his point of view, I would say that the histories and motivations of those pushing his life into unpleasant directions matter about as much as that missing ball of dough in the center of a bagel matters to our enjoyment of it.

Chester is a lapsed grad student, an almost-microbiologist who keeps hanging around campus trying to fill a void in his life. The sight of a Sisyphean squirrel struggling to take an entire bagel home sets off a flurry of anecdotes and remembrances as he tells us about growing up with anti-Semitic, squirrel-phobic father and his near-escape into a failed marriage with a Jewish almost-soul-mate. No, we never learn how his father became so anti-Semitic or why his wife leaves him, and, IMHO, that doesn’t really matter. We do get hints of things Chester did (or said), misunderstandings and miscommunications (“Holes in the Narrative” as it were). Yes, the torus imagery is a tad obvious and scattershot (an exception being a circular bed with his then-fiancée lounging provocatively in the center being nicely ambiguous – is it her or simply sex that is the “missing dough” of his now-life?), but again, I say, “So what?”

But what makes the whole thing work spin as smoothly as a CD is the construction of the script, the direction (by Susan Reid) and design of the production, and, especially, the performance of Daniel May. We know that Mr. May can command the stage for long and bizarre monologues (“Pillowman”), for long silences and reactive moments (“Cat on a Hot Tin Roof”) and for long semi-sane rants (“Bug”). Here, though, he shows that he can command our attention with the day-to-day banalities of a life lived with a difficult father and an inscrutable wife. And he can do it alone and without co-stars. He shows us a frenetic energy that races him around the stage like a hula hoop and he shows us a deep calm that keeps him as still as an inner tube on a summer lake. He never reaches any conclusions or resolutions, but his story comes full circle so that that bagel-hoarding squirrel gives him the clue he may (or may not) need to resolve the emptiness at the center of his life.

This is a far from empty show, giving us a wide range of emotions and reactions – cringe-worthy descriptions of rabies shots, tear-worthy descriptions of missed opportunities, laugh-worthy descriptions of squirrel-slaughter, smile-worthy descriptions of semi-lies and half-truths. Time referents are always clear –¬ words, performance, and lighting all combine to let us know exactly who and exactly what and exactly when is being described – since Chester often switches time periods in mid-sentence, this is a requirement for a full understanding of the piece. Maybe the over-obvious imagery is a tool to help us roll through this story, this life. In any case, I rather enjoyed seeing all the Torus images popping up like cheerios.

But, first and foremost, this is Daniel May’s play, and he gives a thoroughly complete and compelling performance. He takes us into Chester’s world with his first line, and doesn’t let us go until his final climb up the set (kudos, BTW, to designer Britt Ramroop for giving a collage of a set that hoards all of Chester’s props and is as patchwork and complete as Chester’s story).

Does the play leave us with unanswered questions? Of course – the best of plays usually do (if it answered all questions, what would we have to think about or talk about afterwards?). Is there a hole at its center? Of course, but, like with a bagel or a life saver or a wedding ring, sometimes the hole is the point.

Torus! Torus! Torus!

-- Brad Rudy (BKRudy@aol.com)

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Torus, not Torahs
by playgoer
Saturday, September 18, 2010
4.0
In Aurora Theatre's GGC Lab production of "Circumference of a Squirrel," the stage is set with inner tubes, tires, and urban detritus, nicely designed by Britt Ramrooop. An aggressively ambitious lighting scheme by James M. Helms shapes the action, moving focus across the stage as actor Daniel May's kinetic performance propels him from one spot to another. Author John Walch peppers his script with reference to the torus shape -- doughnuts, bagels, Lifesavers, wreaths. Susan Reid's direction makes good use of the inner tube and a variety of tires to portray many of these objects.

The play is nicely shaped. focusing on character Chester's relationships with his anti-Semitic father and Jewish wife. The central action is book-ended by a story involving a young squirrel attempting to lug a bagel up a tree. It's all very literary and metaphoric, with an overall satisfying arc.

Chester, however, is supposed to be a biology buff. He provides background information on Louis Pasteur's discovery of a rabies vaccine. It's unfortunate that John Walch has chosen a bite from a rabid squirrel as the central incident of the play. Squirrels and other rodents rarely acquire rabies. No mention of this is made in the play, so it appears that scientific fact has been discarded in favor of an author's construct. Since I couldn't buy into the supposed facts of the piece, my enjoyment of the play was not as great as it might have been for others.

There is a lot of humor in "Circumference of a Squirrel," but much of it comes from a dark place. Death pervades the play -- deaths of squirrels, death of Chester's marriage, death of Chester's father. There were certain points in the performance when some audience members shrieked with laughter, while others cringed squeamishly.

Daniel May, as always, gives an energetic, professional performance. It's a one-man show, so he gets to portray other roles than Chester through vocal inflections. The voice of his mother isn't quite funny enough, but otherwise he acquits himself admirably. He keeps attention throughout.

Susan Reid's direction shapes the play nicely. There is some action with Mr. May prone on the floor, which masks the view for audience members beyond the first role, but otherwise sightlines are adequate. Audience interaction is restricted mostly to Mr. May handing out wintergreen Lifesavers (a lifelong habit of Chester's father), but at the end of the show two halves of a bagel are also handed out. The bagel has been sitting on the floor, so no audience member is going to want to eat it. Chester makes mention of keeping one half of the bagel, while ceding the other half to the squirrel, so it's a bit jarring that either half ends up in the audience. Like the author giving rabies to a squirrel, it's a "huh?" moment in the proceedings, capable of bringing the audience out of the show to wonder what the point is.

"Circumference of a Squirrel" is a highly professional production, providing a worthwhile start to this season's GGC Lab series at Aurora Theatre. The audience members when I went were generally far beyond college age, so I'm not sure how many Georgia Gwinnett College students are taking advantage of the series. Aside from some rants from Chester's father, the language in the play is mostly unobjectionable, so this is perhaps not as "edgy" a play as some seen last season. It's a conventionally well-constructed play, with very little unresolved messiness. As the subtitle puts it, it's "a riff with an inner tube." [POST A COMMENT REGARDING THIS REVIEW]


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