The Chronicle review is out, reproduced in its entirety here for ease of reading:
Full Circle reveals moments of genius
By EVERETT EVANS
Copyright 2005 Houston Chronicle
Infernal Bridegroom Productions’ lively and provocative Houston premiere of Charles Mee’s Full Circle marks the first time one of Mee’s works has been staged in Houston. So this IBP outing is doubly worthwhile, for the play itself and as an introduction to a noteworthy contemporary playwright. Mee’s plays have been described as “blueprints for events.” He bases them on earlier works, from Euripides’ Orestes to Gorky’s The Lower Depths. But Mee doesn’t write adaptations. He tosses essentials of pre-existing works into the Cuisinart of his imagination, mixing in new ideas and characters, fictional and historical. Full Circle typifies his technique. Based on Brecht’s The Caucasian Chalk Circle (and the 14th-century Chinese play that was Brecht’s original source), Full Circle retains the tale of a peasant woman fighting to keep the baby she has cared for, against the wishes of the child’s neglectful birth mother. But Mee intertwines this plot with the saga of American socialite Pamela Dalrymple (based on real-life socialite Pamela Harriman), who is in East Berlin attending a performance by the Berliner Ensemble when revolution breaks out and the Berlin Wall comes crashing down. Pamela has stepped out of the audience to become embroiled in a discussion of art and politics with Berliner Ensemble director Heiner Muller and his cast when the frenzy outside their theater overtakes them. Erich Honecker, head of East Germany’s communist regime, flees with his wife, who leaves her baby in the arms of hapless student revolutionary Dulle Griet (a figure Mee has imported from Dutch folklore and the paintings of Pieter Bruegel the Elder!). Kindhearted Pamela takes Dulle Griet and the baby under her wing, and they flee from officers determined to confiscate the infant (apparently fearing Honecker’s heir somehow will lead to continuity of his regime). In their picaresque adventures, the women keep crossing paths with American tycoon Warren (based on Warren Buffett), who becomes Pamela’s love interest. Mee has written that he does not care for the traditional “well-made play” and well-made Full Circle certainly ain’t. It’s unwieldly, often slap-dash, sometimes self-indulgent. It’s also spottily brilliant, full of originality, surprises, mordant satire, pungent absurdity and feeling. I don’t mind a play that tries my patience a bit here and there, as long as it pays off — as Full Circle does time and again. Director Anthony Barilla captures the work’s freewheeling spirit and questioning irreverence in a deftly paced, vividly staged production. A scene in which Pamela and Dulle Griet teeter across a perilous rope bridge, represented by two lengths of rope held by extras, demonstrates just how much suspense Barilla and his cast can summon through skilled use of a simple device. Tek Wilson, whom longtime Houston theater goers will remember as a mainstay of Stages’ early seasons, does her best work with a delightful portrayal of Pamela, seemingly superficial and lah-di-dah, yet revealing layers of warmth, wit, compassion and surprising resourcefulness. A.J. Ware’s wise, caring and resilient Dulle Griet represents an earthier sort of womanhood. Paul Locklear is inspired and mercurial as Heiner Muller, especially in a marathon monologue that dares us to decide it has overstayed its welcome, but keeps redeeming itself with unexpected insights. Locklear’s delivery is a triumph of sardonic brinkmanship. Tamarie Cooper is delectably rotten as the child’s real mother. Jeff Miller makes a droll yet somehow sensible Warren, absurdly spouting optimistic aphorisms. Indeed, everyone in IBP’s busy troupe comes through with banners flying. With direction and acting that enter wholeheartedly into the revolutionary spirit of Mee’s unique material, Full Circle emerges as IBP’s strongest all-around effort since its memorable 2003 mounting of Ionesco’s Rhinoceros.