Erin PetersonIt’s just another day at the art gallery. But is it art? A guide (Betsy Dunbar was my guide) leads audience members through a tour of the exhibits – sculptures with a definite theme of death, some blank canvases (one’s a landscape and one’s a seascape), and a painting that can’t be seen at all but that Betsy seems quite taken with. But am I really seeing, or not seeing, art? For this is playwright Tina Howe’s highly unusual Museum, an absurdist play exploring the nature of art and what it means. If anything. Who decides such things? The artists? The critics? The government? Society? The individuals who attend art galleries?

It’s quite an assortment of individuals in this show that moves a lot of mostly eccentric characters through a peculiar art exhibit on its last day – characters through which Howe explores her concepts. And characters that the students of Coronado School of the Arts embody in all their eccentricity. Some of the highlights from the stream of passing museum patrons…

* Friends Liz (Lena White), Carol (Katie Wrieden), and Blakey (Erin Peterson) discussing the ethical issues of the artist’s deaf parents raising a child. Before Blakey becomes obsessed with the piece that has a whole family hanging dead on a clothesline, desiring to become a part of it, and becoming especially enamored of the bucket of old-fashioned clothespins next to it, unable to keep her hands off of them even as the anguished guard (Gabe Lazard) struggles with her, her growing excitement for the piece culminating in Blakey’s climax. Erin also turns an amusing role as one of many women who want to sketch or photograph the art including Katie Wrieden, Isabella Verendia, and Devon Walker who are so desperate to capture the art that they end up making up stories and/or flirting with the dubious but blushing guard.

* Gay friends Bob Lamp (Travis Wright) and Will Willard (Max Gidaley) and the two well-to-do and gossipy Barbaras (Elizabeth Gaiani and Sarah Kilcline) discussing concerns that culture in America is facing a crisis it might not recover from due in large part to museum vandals that will scare all artists from displaying their art, which in turn will stop artists from creating the art because if nobody’s going to see, then what’s the point?

* Brittany Hites is Chloe Trapp who comes in and dazzles the other patrons with impressive mumbo jumbo about art that has everyone transfixed by the nonsense, which has the ring of deep insight.

* Giggling teenage friends Lillian (Julia Karis), Harriett (Darienne Orlansky), and May (Victoria Gonzalez) drop by the museum and are the only ones savvy enough (or not profound enough) to laugh at the idea that the white canvases are supposed to be seascapes and landscapes.

* Darienne Orlansky exposes a different sort of art form as a museum flasher.

* Our security guard Gabe Lazard bragging with fellow guards Olivia O’Connor and Sarah Kilcline about the vast superiority of American museum security versus European museum security (as things are stolen from the place).

* Jean-Claude (Adrian Gonzalez) and Francoise (Jessie Berger) are a French couple who are awed by some of the art but are furious with the pretentiousness of Mr. Moe’s artwork, bugging the guard about it, and then acting like crazed chimps.

Max Gidaley, Evangelina Gryparis, Alene Lynch, and Lena White* And last but certainly not least is the captivating monologue by Alene Lynch as Tink Solheim, a woman teetering on the edge of sanity who once went out with the artist Agnes Vaag looking for the animal skulls and bones used in her artwork, Tink describing the search with a slowly escalating mixture of wonder and horror as she describes how she saw Agnes find a skull and begin licking it (leaving her with terribly bad breath). The escalation begins again when she realizes that Agnes has hidden a secret in the art piece, and tears it apart to find it. Is that destroying art or uncovering it? Does a destroyed piece of art become merely a different piece of art? What the hell is art???

Recent CoSA graduate Alex Lee has the characters dressed in a variety of great outfits that truly accentuate their personalities. Directors Kris McClung and Ray Yannaccone have the pace ebbing and flowing with precision, putting on display the various characters whose wide spectrum of reactions and discussions reveal so much more about the needs and desires of the unique characters and the complex nature of humanity than it reveals about the actual art. But maybe that’s what art is supposed to do.

Performed October 19 - November 4, 2007.

Rob Hopper
National Youth Theatre

~ Cast ~

The Guard: Gabe Lazard
Michelle Wall: Devon Walker
Jean-Claude: Adrian Gonzalez
Francoise: Jessie Berger
Annette Froebel: Victoria Gonzalez
Liz: Lena White
Carol: Katie Wrieden
Blakey: Erin Peterson
Mr. Hollingsford: Carlos Ortega
Elizabeth Sorrow: Alene Lynch
Peter Ziff: Darienne Orlansky
P. Salt: Evangelia Gryparis
S. Salt: Olivia O'Connor
Maggie Snow: Elizabeth Gaiani
Bob Lamb: Travis Wright
Will Willard: Max Gidaley
Frederica Izumi: Isabella Verendia
Mira Zidal: Erin Peterson
1st Man in Passing: Carlos Ortega
2nd Man in Passing: Adrian Gonzalez
Barbara Castle: Elizabeth Gaiani
Barbara Zimmer: Sarah Kilcline
Mr. Gregory: Ashley Perwich
Chloe Trapp: Brittany Hites
Ada Bilditsky: Julia Karis
Gilda Norris: Katie Wrieden
Tink Solheim: Alene Lynch
Kate Siv: Lena White
Bill Plaid: Travis Wright
Lillian: Julia Karis
Harriett: Darienne Orlansky
May: Victoria Gonzalez
Giorgio: Max Gidaley
Zoe: Evangelia Gryparis
Julie Jenkins: Erin Peterson
First Guard: Olivia O'Connor
Second Guard: Sarah Kilcline
Steve Williams: Carlos Ortega
Mr. Moe: Grayson Kelley
Mrs. Moe: Jessie Berger

Director: Kris McClung and Ray Yannaccone
Technical Direction: Adrian Gonzalez
Lighting Design: Lace Flores
Costume Design: Alex Lee
Sound Design: David Howard
Stage Managers: David Howard and Myles Umphress


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