Another Vermeer

FAKE IT TILL YOU MAKE IT Pendleton starts a sketch.

FAKE IT TILL YOU MAKE IT Pendleton starts a sketch. Photograph: Kim Sharp

Time Out Ratings :

<strong>Rating: </strong>2/5

Dutch painter Han van Meegeren’s forgeries fooled the artistic elite—a clique he could never be part of—but his greatest triumph, a fake Vermeer, nearly cost him his life. When it was found in the possession of Hermann Göring in 1945, Van Meegeren was fingered as the man who sold it to an art dealer, who in turn sold it to the Nazi commander. On trial for treason, Van Meegeren escaped the death penalty by admitting he was a first-rate forger.

The bulk of Bruce J. Robinson’s discursive Another Vermeer, about art’s ability both to heal and haunt, depicts an imprisoned Van Meegeren (Pendleton) striving to exonerate himself by showing he can fake another Vermeer. (Tony Kudner’s lighting vibrantly and appropriately illuminates the Abingdon Theatre’s black-box space.) Amid bouts of soul-searching and wit, Van Meegeren finds a figurative blank canvas in a young officer (Justin Grace) he too easily persuades to pose as Jesus. Ghostly visits from the forger’s mentor and Vermeer himself (both played by Dan Cordle) follow, as well as a showdown with a pompous art critic (the debonair Christopher).

For all that’s at stake, director Kelly Morgan’s production lacks finesse and dramatic urgency. There’s little action aside from painting, posing and pontificating; characters muse about art and life as Pendleton feverishly telegraphs anguish and wistfulness, amongst a gamut of emotions. As Robinson wrestles with the artist-critic relationship, Van Meegeren’s compulsive need for approval renders him whiny and petty. A visit to the Met would be time better spent.

—Diane Snyder

Abingdon Theatre. By Bruce J. Robinson. Dir. Kelly Morgan. With Austin Pendleton, Thom Christopher. 1hr 45mins. No intermission.