Fulfilling Bakersfield Mist Continues on at Fountain
written and directed by Stephen Sachs
extended through September 3
"Great art is the only truth", proclaims fake buster Lionel Percy (Nick Ullett) to Maude Gutman (Jenny O'Hara) in Stephen Sachs' exquisite world premiere Bakersfield Mist, now extended once more at the Fountain Theatre until September 3. Maude's initial truth of thinking her painting a Jackson Pollock original is denied by Percy. But Percy's truth/opinion does not hold water after Maude attempts to make a person out of him. Either of them could be accurate as to the painting's authenticity leaving the above statement the most revered truth of the play.
Gutman and Percy are as different as night and day. She is an uneducated, low-class ex-bartender with a trashy mouth; he is an over-educated, pompously stubborn snob who refuses to lot go of his ideals. Maude's feelings are deeply human, whereas Percy's only come out when he describes great art. But they do have art in common, no matter the form or content of the art each chooses. The beauty of this writing is that neither character is forced to change to please the other. Maude is willing to do anything to get Percy to change his mind at first, but as he proves inaccessible, her overtures never occur. Sachs wisely lets the message be that art speaks for itself and change is in the eye of the beholder. Since art reaches a spiritual level, it would be blasphemy if either character gave in.
Both O'Hara and Ullett are magnificent under Sachs' loving direction. O'Hara's feelings are palpable at every turn; we can feel her every need and frustration. Sachs' brilliant monologue where Percy describes Pollock's rage in painting style is so orgasmic it allows Ullett to build to a climax as he delivers it, which he does breathtakingly. A thrilling moment!
Great writing, great acting, great direction! I cannot add anything else. Bravo!