Nicola 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, 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.