The Steppenwolf for Young Adults production of “This Is Modern Art” is well-cast, well-acted, intense, interesting and a crazy kind of educational. I learned way more than I wanted to know about how to create graffiti! On the other hand, the message it’s sending to the enthusiastic teens in the audience is seriously skewed. Because I have such mixed feelings about the play, I give “This Is Modern Art” 3 Spotlights.
Graffiti art ranges from tags (initials) to ‘pieces (as in masterpieces). Graffiti artists (at least in Chicago) call it bombing when they go out to work on a ‘piece. Since their art rarely remains in view for long, they try to place in highly visible locations.
Seven (Jerry Mackinnon) and his crew, Dose (Jessie D. Prez) and JC (J. Salomé Martinez, Jr.), use the tag MUL (made you look) on all their pieces. Although Seven’s girlfriend, Selena (Kelly O’Sullivan), can’t paint, she’s not a graffiti groupie since she has a car and drives them to their target locations and acts as their lookout.
Seven broke the fourth wall to give the audience helpful instructions for bombing. A graffiti artist should wear boxers, long johns, 2 pairs of socks, layered shirts/jacket, a dark colored hat, the sleeve cut off a T-shirt as a face covering, and work boots. He should always carry a lighter, a knife and condoms. He should organize his paints – 3 main colors plus accent colors – in a backpack, which he wears in front of his body for easy access.
Frustrated that their work isn’t recognized as art, the crew decides on huge target for their graffiti bomb, a granite wall, something like eighty-foot long, at the Art Institute. After their masterpiece makes TV news and goes viral on social media, they go into hiding after learning about the serious consequences they’ll be facing if arrested.
Although there is graffiti all over the stage, the crew never actually paints anything during the performance. They do spray a lot of paint into the air, however.
“This Is Modern Art” runs through March 14th at Steppenwolf Theatre, 1650 N. Halsted, Chicago. Most performances are limited to student groups. Public performances are Friday and Saturday at 7:30 pm. Running time is 85 minutes, no intermission. Tickets range from $15-$20. Parking is available for a nominal fee in the Steppenwolf garage. FYI (312) 335-1650 or www.steppenwolf.org.
To see what others are saying, visit www.theatreinchicago.com, go to Review Round-up and click at “This Is Modern Art”