Found Objects Theatre Group at Prop Thtr. The Art of Painting by Mark Chrisler. Directed by Tim Racine. With Chrisler. Notes to Molly by Chris Bower. Directed by Kevlyn Hayes. With Andrew Schoen, Becca Gerroll. Running time: 1hr 45mins; one intermission.
Theater review by Dan Jakes
It's no secret to art historians that even the most acclaimed paintings can be eclipsed by the story of their creation. That's arguably the case with The Art of Painting, Dutch artist Johannes Vermeer's masterpiece depicting an unnamed painter at work with his historical muse. But who is doing the painting? An abstract figure signifying all artists? Vermeer himself? Or Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn, whom the artist modeled himself after figuratively and, in some cases, literally?
In a solo piece written and performed by Mark Chrisler that share's the painting's name, theories about the work are explored in the style of a college lecture. What interests the disheveled professor the most has little to do with the work's acclaimed composition or creation, but instead the hysteria surrounding its subsequent imitations by master forger Hans Von Meegren. What follows a brief biography about the two artists is a sordid and complicated tale of Nazi theft, parental disappointment, and the head-scratching economic logic of the art collector world. Originally presented at the 2012 New York International Fringe Festival, there's some enigmatic characterization of the professor—he may or may not have killed his father, or is a forger himself—though it doesn't seem to matter, and it's a small subplot by comparison to the much larger and more fascinating real life plot at the center.
It's also fortunately presented before an act break and Chris Bower's Notes To Molly, a completely incongruous and mostly tedious art piece about two bitter alcoholics. For a little less than an hour, a hopeless and spiteful couple silently sits and mourns their own hangovers, then present soliloquies about their hate for one another. It's about as interesting as that sounds.