CIRCUS PEOPLE, an original play by Heidi Heimarck that Theatre Babylon is producing over at Union Garage, has the odd distinction of making something old seem old again. The tale of young Julie-etta's (Stacey Plum) moonstruck journey to become a tightrope walker is strangely oblivious to its own dated familiarity, like some deeply sincere post-World War II effort. Heimarck aims for a pseudo-William Inge lyricism, complete with faintly precious high-wire-as-life metaphors and yearning monologues about the importance of dreams and how "there ain't nothin' else is worth fightin' for." She hasn't written anything shameful, but neither has she written anything particularly new.

The youthful Heimarck's appearance in her own play as Mawmaw, the feisty, aging invalid who raises the orphaned Julie-etta, is an amateurish mistake (and just why is she quoting A. A. Milne so soberly?), but there are more pressing concerns in her role as playwright and director. She's been granted a workmanlike, bi-level set by cast member Brad Cook and a great patchwork quilt curtain by Christy Bain, but both are wasted as backdrops for the unfortunately clichéd action. The miscast Plum -- who needs to be Natalie Wood and is instead a petulant Glenn Close -- is guided into such extravagant gestures of dauntless pluck that you expect her to break into song, and everyone she encounters seems culled from other quirkily sentimental plays and movies. Despite her hard-boiled attempt to humanize a bearded lady (a game Sara Forsythe) and a weird bit of fancy called Cuckoo the Bird Girl (Jennifer Moon), the playwright continues to resort to the dreamy, homespun humanity of characters like down-on-his-luck rodeo clown Buster (Cook). Surely a bunch of carnival "freaks" should provide more interesting stories than the usual heart-of-gold martyrdom they are given here, right down to the stuttering, armless sweetheart (Tim Gouran, creating quite a nice little something out of a completely ridiculous role).

Heimarck should get a little credit for creating a whole piece, a complete unit of enthusiasm and purpose. She knows what she's set out to do, and it's good that she means it. It would be nicer, though, if it hadn't all been done before, and better.

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