Now through January 30th, the Fountain Theatre in Hollywood offers a beautifully written, touching, and hilarious comedy in Bakersfield Mist.
Written and directed by Stephen Sachs, the production is a revival of an earlier incarnation of the play, and remains a two person tour de force, currently performed to perfection by Jenny O’Hara and Nick Ullett. As an out of work bartender and an uptight art expert, respectively, the performances are spot on.
Sachs is co-artistic director at the theater, and has written a wonderfully nuanced character study of two people who in their own, incredibly different ways, are passionate about a piece of art – which may or may not be a Jackson Pollock.
Based on a true incident, the play focuses on bartender and thrift-shop veteran Maude Gutman who may have uncovered a genuine Jackson Pollock. Summoned to her door is renowned art historian and analyst Lionel Percy, come all the way from New York to verify the providence of the painting. Though Maude makes a convincing and impassioned argument, and both reveal their past mistakes, sins, and dreams, the pair ultimately butts heads when it comes to whether the painting is genuine or not.
Emotions run high, amusement soars and recedes on a tide of self-doubt and recrimination, and who is the stronger survivor of the pair might very well come into question.
The two are each quite profound in their own disparate ways, and the question as to the meaning and purpose of art is matched to even deeper questions about the meaning of life itself, handling loss, and the burning spark of truth and desire the fuels everyone, regardless of pedigree, pride, or limitations.
Delightfully witty and yet deeply moving, this is a perfect two-hander, performed in one compelling act. It makes a great way to start the theatrical New Year.
The Fountain Theatre is located at 5060 Fountain Ave. For tickets visit http://www.fountaintheatre.com/event/bakersfield-mist-2016/
- Genie Davis; photos provided by Ed Krieger