"Open Circle" Review – The Plagiarists’ Perform at Berger House Mansion

I was delighted to witness the new show, Circle House, which is now featured at the beautiful Chicago Berger Park Mansion.  Nick Freed, the show’s Press Liaison for the parent production company, The Plagiarists, claimed that this is “a show unlike any other” and I would have to agree with him on several counts.



: Judi Schindler, Sara Jean McCarthy, and Jhenai Mootz

The audience literally walks through around seven of the Mansion’s rooms, called the Time Museum, in three individual groups with their own personal narrator (called guides) plus a curator. It’s difficult to explain (seeing is believing); but each of the three group tours delves into the causes and effects of dying as well as the lessons learned.



This is a group-written piece,  a technique in which The Plagiarists excel.  As the audiences enter each room (and sometimes crisscross with other groups in seamless movements), and as the guides share their stories of loss, audience members are invited to touch anything they like in the room, to experiment first-hand with the objects which were important to the family’s life. In one room, the Garden room, we were invited to take sand, seeds and plants and enjoy nature.



Emily Green

For me, the play was a bit emotional and close to home. Through the process of traveling to different rooms, the guide explained how her daughter had died in her twenties after a water accident. Tragically, my younger son, Jeffrey, also had died at 20 from a jetski crash.  I was reliving the emotions, thoughts and wisdom the two shared on their life journeys.



The audiences were definitely moved by the play. For many, the messages were uplifting and engaged us to live life fully but understand that loved ones die. I thought the script was interpreted perfectly by the talented actors. As it says in the show’s introduction, you will learn how endings are beginnings, the secrets of nature and music, and what must happen when we die. The show’s goal is to help rehabilitate these lost souls – and perhaps our own family members’ memories.


Picture 3: Graham Emmons and Elaine Small


And the fact that during the show’s performance I saw, the weather outside was frightful as monsoon-like rain and wind added an aura of tragic realism to the play. Audience members were literally blown away as they left The Berger Park Mansion. 6219 North Sheridan Road in Chicago.



The Plagiarists were formed in 2007, and proudly admit to stealing from literature, visual art, history and the culture at large to create new theatre that finds the familiar in the strange, the unique and in the commonplace. They seem to be a wildly talented entourage.



Christina Casano and Katherine Lamb


Shout outs to the cast who included Bryan Breau, Christina Casano, Graham Emmons, Emily Green, Katherine Lamb, Sara Jean McCarthy, Jhenai Mootz, Judi Schindler (my friend and an excellent “Tack” in the play), and Elaine Small.


Becky Bishop handled the tricky stage management, getting the audience to different rooms without delays or mishaps. Brad Brubaker & The Crowd Goes Wild was the composer/music director who created the musical background for each play-within-a-play. Jessice Wright Buha was the Adaptor, Playwright for this themed piece. Emma Cullimore and Derik Marcussen were the Production Designers; and John Jacobsen was the lighting designer. The talented Director was Kate Nawrocki, assisted by Emily Wills.


Special thanks to Nick Freed, the Press Liaison and Sound Designer, who enlightened me on some of the deeper meanings of this interesting play.


The show has an open run on Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 until May 27. 


Emily Green


Tickets are available by visiting brownpaperbagtickets

www.brownpapertickets.com or calling 1-800-838-3006. For ticketing questions email [email protected] .Tickets are priced at $20; $15 for students and seniors.


You will read interesting highlights about the group as well as information on future plays at the plagiarists website.



CIRCLE HOUSE is performed as a tour throughout the historic Berger Park North Mansion and patrons will be on their feet and navigating stairs.





Photos: Joe Mazza at Bravelux




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