Meetup #14: Carnival Round the Central Figure


Having witnessed several meditations on death during our Meetup outings over the last year like Frances Ya-Chu Cowhig’s 410[Gone] and Tanya Shaffer’s The Fourth Messenger, we went into Diana Amsterdam’s Carnival Round the Central Figure with huge expectations, and boy, did it surpass them or what!

Death — unfortunately, it’s inevitable, but that doesn’t stop us from coming up with all kinds of ways to ignore it. That’s the premise of Carnival Round the Central Figure, a darkly comic and experimental look at mortality. A man lies dying in a hospital bed as a host of various characters, including a televangelist and a psychologist, come forward to offer their philosophical advice to the sick man’s in-denial wife. “Doesn’t everybody die?” The search for an answer leads Kate on a wild theatrical roller-coaster ride where all the manic denial in the world can’t obscure the inevitable truth.

Robert Hurwitt of the San Francisco Chronicle has some rich praise to bestow upon Amsterdam and director Chloe Bronzan:

“As a man lies dying amid a carnival of positive thinking and TV-preacher denial, Kate battles for death with dignity in director Chloe Bronzan’s taut, cagey and strongly cast Symmetry Theatre staging of Diana Amsterdam’s comic and moving blend of social satire and human drama.”

Sam Hurwitt of The Idiolect says both the performances and the writing are equally compelling reasons to see this production:

“The performances are one of the main reasons to see Symmetry Theatre Company’s Carnival Round the Central Figure, which boasts an impressive assemblage of terrific local actors. But Diana Amsterdam’s play is fascinating in its own right.”

Please enjoy sound designer’s Steve Bage’s short video that captures some backstage and offscreen moments – a real treat!


Gender parity in casting is at the center of this East Bay company’s mission, and we were delighted to see their first production at the Live Oak in the show’s West Coast premiere. Amsterdam’s powerful dark comedy is an unsettling examination of our inability to accept the fate that awaits us all.

If you were a part of the Meetup or have seen/will see the production on your own, do share your key takeaways and shoutouts to the wonderful women involved:

Diana Amsterdam (Playwright), Chloe Bronzan (Director) El Beh, Velina Brown*, Lizzie Calogero*, Amber Crane,  Marissa Keltie*Ellen Brooks (Lighting Designer) and Aya Matsumo (Stage Manager).

We’ll see you at the next Meetup!


3 responses to “Meetup #14: Carnival Round the Central Figure

  1. an amazingly non-linear narrative; strong acting in all corners; Symmetry’s design & tech team stepping up to the needs of a larger space (including projected images), and strongly helmed by Chloe in the director’s chair – well paced through many shifts and transitions in tone, location, time, etc. A great way to round out 2014 for Works by Women SF!!

  2. Great acting and direction. I appreciated that the play dealt with denial and dying. The satiric tone and forward/backward structure of the play reminded me of Paula Vogel’s plays.

  3. I was astonished both by the unusual form of the play and the intensely funny and deeply moving performances. The plays’ central metaphor – that the end stages of a person’s life can have a carnival-esque quality that is more about those they are leaving behind resonated keenly with my own experience of death and grieving. The essential truth of this experience was beautifully represented onstage by Chloe Bronzan’s sharp directly and subtle and richly textured performances by all the actors.

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