BWW Review: Tour de Force Duo Drive BAKERSFIELD MIST
BAKERSFIELD MIST/written & directed by Stephen Sachs/The Fountain Theatre/thru December 12, 2016
The play's title BAKERSFIELD MIST refers to the focal piece of art Maude bought for $3 at Daisy's Junk Shop years ago. Former bartender Maude, now living at Bakersfield's Sage Brush Trailer Park, has hired art authenticity expert Lionel to confirm that her canvas actually is a Jackson Pollock original, akin to his "Lavender Mist."
O'Hara whole-heartedly grabs her role of the manic, desperate Maude, close to the end of her rope and wits; spewing out her guts and uncensored emotions to the prim and proper New York art expert Lionel. O'Hara easily handles Maude's over-the-top screaming, her frantic attempts at seducing Lionel; as well as, her much quieter, reflective moments talking about her dead son Eddie. Owing to O'Hara acting prowess, O'Hara manages to make her oft-putting, abrasive, probably suicidal character Maude sympathetic - no easy task.
Ullett imbues his Lionel with a haughty New York City air of condescension upon entering Maude's trailer home. Not totally undeserved, mind you, as his first meeting with Maude has just been preceded by her neighbor's dogs attacking; then followed by Maude's blue-streaked apologies/explanations. Ullett's very calm demeanor perfectly balances the high energy antics of O'Hara. Later, Ullett's surprisingly breaks loose in his quirky little dance examining the maybe-Pollock canvas. Yet, later, it's in Lionel's tale of his first introduction to Pollock, that Ullett seizes his moment to shine on stage allowing Lionel's very un- business-like passion to explode.
Stephen Sachs directs his own witty script most knowingly even though the authenticity question gets answered after only fifteen minutes into the play. Why the all-business Lionel doesn't leave at that point, not as clear as it possibly could be.
A surprise reveal near the end will only make one re-examine Maude's sanity even more thoroughly.
Kudos to set designer Jeffrey McLaughlin for his incredibly lived-in, low-rent mobile home set complemented by the detailed, mismatched tchotchkes of props designer Terri Roberts.