We started the season with Annie Baker’s first play, Body Awareness, and enjoyed fielding wonderful reactions from audiences throughout the run. Our big brother neighbors over at Studio Theatre are returning to Annie Baker as well this season, as they scored a big hit two years ago with Annie’s Circle, Mirror, Transformation. Now comes the third in “The Shirley Plays,” Baker’s trilogy set in the fictional town of Shirley, Vermont.
What’d we think of it, this third most intimate, and provocatively audacious of the triad? I gave the actors and assistant director — wonderful artists all, fiercely dedicated to the shared playwright-director vision of the play — a bit of a hard time in our talk-back last night for some of the willfully lethargic languors of Act I — a full two minutes here or there (and certainly at the top of the show) before a single thing happens, let alone a line gets uttered. Of course something is happening, our actors assured us, and many things are being thought, and they’re also being read, by a clairvoyant director who was able to decipher and mold and guide the active thought patterns of the actors throughout the show. I didn’t buy into a lot of it early on. I was more of the “pshaw” and “show me” school and got bored and frustrated, even while noting the precision with which the play was written, shaped, designed, acted. There was much to appreciate, while one waited for something to happen. And waited. And waited.
And then guess what? It did. Shit happened. Subtle stuff, as had been happening all along, and the playwright began to reward us in spades. Patience patience. That’s all that was required. I didn’t have enough of it early on. But I too was satisfied — rewarded, moved, and impressed by night’s end. That’s Annie Baker; the girl knows how to close a show. If she hadn’t have come up with the big laughs at the end of BODY AWARENESS, we wouldn’t have had the great experience with the show that we had. She ended comically, winningly, with a real sense of achievement, in that, her first play, and with this, the third. Something tiny and yet momentous gets achieved.
Let’s hear what y’all thought!