Tuesday October 17th 2017

“The Rembrandt”

Recommended ***  Have you ever thought about what might happen if you were to touch a museum work of art, just to see if anything special might happen? Many of us laughed fiercely when we saw the films depicting all of the works of art come to life, “Night At The Museum” starring Ben stiller ( with many cameos and guests). Those three films (there may even be more) were farcical, silly and kind of meaningless, but I have a feeling may have been the inspiration for Jessica Dickey’s “The Rembrandt”, now having its Chicago Premiere Upstairs at Steppenwolf Theatre. This is a 90 minute (no intermission) play that is divided into four scenes, or sections. As the scenes are played out, one sees that all of the pieces of Dickey’s “puzzle” make the story “whole”!

The play starts off in an art museum, with the head of security ( night shift) , Henry ( a stunning performance by the always reliable Francis Guinan, who will be replaced by Joe Dempsey in late October) is checking out all of the routine checks and balances that he is required to do.  The head of the “armed” security, Jonny  (  deftly handled by Gabriel Ruiz ) stops by to check on things and they have a brief discussion about Henry’s inner thoughts that late at night, all of the paintings and statues come alive and the characters within meet and greet each other. (sort of like the movie), There is some small talk about the upcoming Easter dinner that Henry should come to and how is his “husband” Simon ( a marvelous character brought to life by John Mahoney), who is an older retired teacher/poet and who is near death.

A new guard shows up for his first day of training. His name is Dodger ( Ty Olwin is filled with energy and speeds the story up with his entrance). A young art student, or as Henry calls her “a copier of art”, Madeline ( adorably handled by Karen Rodriguez) comes in to “copy” the Rembrandt and young Dodger asks her if she would like to touch the painting. While she is afraid to do such a thing and they go back and fiorth, when Henry re-enters the  Gallery, and is asked if he would like to “touch”, despite his knowing that this is strictly against the rules and his “being”, he becomes tempted. He has been under a great deal of pressure here and at home, dealing with Simon’s impending demise and so, the three of them stand before the paining, and prepare to do this amazingly BAD thing, touch the painting, just as Jonny comes in!

At this point, although we know that the three of them did this deed, the set ( a powerful design by  Regina Garcia) which can convert easily, becomes a luxurious home in Amsterdam, circa 1650’s and at this time, Guinan is Rembrandt, preparing to paint the actual painting that those three had touched. A painting of  Philosopher, Aristotle. Rodriguez now becomes his  wife, Henny and this segment truly deals with the painting of  Aristotle . One of the things to note is the bust of Homer that is in a direct line with the painting of Aristotle, as this will come to light ( and life) in the third segment when Homer ( Mahoney is like a one man show in this one and he is brilliant) tells us how to solve the mystery of just being! This segment takes place in a Temple in Greece, circa 800 B.C.- this is a true time travel production!

The final segment/scene is in the home of Henry and Simon as the two partners discuss their lives and loves as well as some of the things that has been their past and what will be their future. Directed by Hallie Gordon, this 90 minute piece is a wonderful exploration of the pursuits in our lives- beauty, love, lasting friendships, memories and  the lives we have had and the meaning they bring or brought to those around (or who will survive) us. There are many comical moments and yet, also touching moments. Some will even find a need for a tissue or two, as Henry and  Simon explore the love they have shared for over 15 years. The only reason that the rating is not higher is that this play will not appeal to everyone, and in fact, is probably more for art lovers and artists than “everyman”.

The technical aspects of this show are sheer perfection. The open set only has one little drawback. We can see the bed behind the wall that will be part of segment 4. Otherwise the set is fantastic, the costumes ( Jenny Mannis), lighting (Ann G. Wrightson), sound and original music ( Elisheba Ittoop), wigs (Penny Lane Studios) and Lacie Hexom (props). Great work Ladies!

“The Rembrandt” will continue at Steppenwolf thru November 5th with performances as follows:

Tuesdays  7:30 p.m.

Wednesdays  7:30 p.m. with 2 pm matinees 10/4- 10/18

Thursdays  7:30 p.m.

\Fridays  7:30 p.m.

Saturdays  3 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.

Sundays  3:00 p.m.  and 7:30 p.m. on 9/24 and 10/1. On 10/15 at 1:30 they will have the “touch tour” for those who are sightless.

Other accessible performances are Sunday October 1 at 7:30 p.m.  – American Sign Language

Open Caption on Saturday , October 7th at 3 p.m.  for info, www.steppensolf.org/access

Tickets for “The Rembrandt” start at  $20 with a top at $104  RUSH tickets- 1/2 price, subject to availability are available one hour prior to curtain. Students can purchase a $15 ticket (max of two) same day, again subject to availability.

Post discussions after the performances with actors, production people and guests

To purchase your chance to be a part of the art, call 312-335-1650 or visit the box office at 1650 N. Halsted Street or online at www.steppenwolf.org

Street parking is available in the area, some metered, some not. There is of course the Garage just South of the theater, 1650 N. Halsted is the theater, and valet parking is also available.

To see what others are saying, and on this one, expect a lot of mixed reactions, visit www.theatreinchicago.com, go to Review Round-Up and click at “The Rembrandt”.

 

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