BWW Reviews: Wright's POSTERITY Pits Playwright Versus Sculptor
No, Doug Wright's new drama about the rocky relationship between playwright Henrik Ibsen and sculptor Gustav Vigeland does not end with one of them storming out the room and slamming the door behind him, but the playwright/director's clash of artistic egos, Posterity, does provide an entertaining, if not especially profound evening.
In actuality, Ibsen did sit for Vigeland near the end of his life, but the playwright had suffered a stroke before their first session and his deteriorating health had made his appearance noticeably different with each new appointment.
Wright largely centers his drama on the demanding visionary Vigeland, played with energetic charisma by Hamish Linklater. Though he has no desire to waste time creating a simple bust of an old writer ("Try carving muttonchops. It can't be done!"), he accepts the government commission presented by his agent (a pleasant and dutiful Henry Stram) in hopes that it will help earn favor for a large sculpture garden he proposes for the center of Norway's capital.
In turn, Ibsen (John Noble, bearing a strikingly regal presence) isn't all that excited about the venture either, presuming the greatness of his plays provides enough of a monument. The setup follows its predictable course, with immediate clashes of age vs. youth, visual representation vs. the written word and each other's value to their country's culture.
But Wright's exchanges are clever and the two actors do fine jobs of hinting at each character's desperation and weakness beneath their hearty egos. Noble's Ibsen is a crumbling image in the second act and Vigeland's admiration and compassion grows as the dying playwright cannot hide his helplessness.Dale Soules gives a marvelous supporting turn as Vigeland's housekeeper and sometimes model, and Wright gives her a wonderful speech in reaction to the suggestion that someone of her age and body type should not be posing nude.
If Posterity isn't one for the ages, fine acting lifts it into being a memorable evening.