By Alan Hustak on February 7, 2017

Bakersfiled_mist.jpgNicola Cavendish tears up the stage as Maude  Gutman,  the coarse, vulgar but far from stupid  trailer park  tootsie in Stephen  Sach’s two-hander, Bakersfield Mist at the Centaur until February 26.  The thought-provoking play spins on a simple premise:  Maude has paid $3.00 for a large discarded  canvas  at a garage sale which may or may not be a Jackson Pollock drip painting worth millions.  A highbrow world authority on contemporary art, Lionel Percy, a former director of the  Metropolitain Museum of Art,  is called in to determine its authenticity. Gives his opinion, and that should settle it.  But  Cavendish ignites the chemistry between polar opposites when she offers her  alternative facts.  She lives in her own separate, equally informed reality.    Cavendish gives a touching,  heartfelt  portrait of  vulnerable reality  that pricks Lionel’s inflated ego and exposes his self doubt.  What ensues is a larger-than-life battle of wits between them  that lays bare the meaning of  art,  self-worth, and human dignity.   Jonathan  Monro  does what is required of him as  Lionel,  but as written, the role he plays stretches  all  credibility  One has to wonder why, after pronouncing the work a fake  he sticks around   to share his orgasmic love of art with Maude.   Pam Johnson’s set design, decorated with thrift store furniture, fridge magnets and kitsch art is absolutely authentic. Director  Roy Surette has  approached the natural with a touch of the surreal that leaves an audience fulfilled   After eighty minutes the message is clear: Art, like life, is only worth what each of us choose to invest in it. 

noises_off.jpgNoises Off, Michael Frayn’s acclaimed sex farce at the Segal until  Feb 19th, isn’t the easiest of plays to pull off.  It’s actually a play-with-in-a-play.  The first act opens with  the disastrous  dress rehearsal of sex farce called Nothing On,  being mounted  by a second rate English theatre company about to take it a tour of the provinces.  The second act takes us back stage a month later as cast  tensions erupt during a performance of the same  play  and the third act is a catastrophic staging during the run when the whole effort deliciously falls apart.   The repetition of the same script can become tedious unless the relationships  and couplings among the cast are clearly underscored as the company hurls itself forward through the production.   Director Jacob  Tierny  settles for controlled  madcap  mayhem  instead of the quick-witted, door slamming,   pants  dropping  explosions that  classic farceurs require .  It’s funny, but not as ridiculously,  side-splittingly  hilarious  as it should be.  Still, each member of the cast has a memorable turn or two, especially  Martha Burns as  Dottie  Otley, the housekeeper who never knows whether to bring the sardines or leave the sardines,   Amanda  Lismans  dumb shtick works,  Marcel Jeannin’s  pratfalls are hilarious and   Daniel  Illford’s missed cues and drunken antics  keep you chuckling.   David Julian Hirsch’s  attempts to  be  the  calm cool and collected director amid all  the chaos  is also a delight.   The sight  gags are made all the more enjoyable thanks to the revolving stage upon the stage designed by Pierre Etienne Locas. 


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