|Marney Austin and Tom Koelbel|
Photo by Mark Gluckman
Click here for more information on this production that runs through January 29th.
".Stephen Sachs' Bakersfield Mist is an intriguing, yet not completely successful, comedy-drama that delves into the topic of art and brings up some questions about how one determines the quality of it. Is art only good if someone with authority says it is? If someone with no knowledge believes it is good, does that also qualify as a meaningful validation? Theatre Artists Studio presents the area premiere of this two-character, one-act play, with a talented cast and realistic creative elements that help make up for some of the play's shortcomings. Set in Bakersfield, California, and based on a true story, the plot begins when Lionel Percy, a New York art authenticator, arrives at the trailer park home of Maude Gutman to determine if the painting she bought for $3 at a thrift store is in fact a lost Jackson Pollock masterpiece worth millions. Over the next 80 minutes, Lloyd and Maude discover that each has demons in their past and that, because of Google, Maude knows a lot more about Lloyd than he thinks she does, including the fact that he was fired from heading up New York's Museum of Metropolitan Art for determining a very expensive piece of art was legit when it turned out to be fake. Has that experience tainted his ability to determine the legitimacy of Maude's painting? ...the characters don't always sound realistic and some of their actions don't exactly ring true. These two strangers reveal intimate things about themselves in a very short time period that seem forced and unrealistic. The play is also somewhat padded in spots even though it is always interesting. Marney Austin and Tom Koelbel are very believable as these very different people. ...Director Richard Powers-Hardt does an exceptional job of staging the action across his fixed, very well-designed set that portrays the main room of Marge's trailer...While Bakersfield Mist may not be completely successful it still makes for an interesting character study and poses some provoking questions about art, identity, and the importance of validation. " -Gil Benbrook, Talkin' Broadway (click here to read the complete review)
"...Teri Horton, a retired 18-wheeler driver ...who lives in a mobile home...shelled out $5 in a thrift shop for a painting that she subsequently believed to be a Jackson Pollock. What started out as a lark became a full blown controversy about what I might call the politics of authentication, elitism among the upper crust of the arts world, and the definition of art....Fast forward seven years and playwright Stephen Sachs used the story as the basis for BAKERSFIELD MIST, now the current offering at Theatre Artists Studio. Horton becomes Maude Gutman, played by Marney Austin...who believes with all her heart that the canvas in the back room of her trailer is her ticket to independence and wealth. She merely needs the painting to be authenticated. Enter Lionel Percy, a former director of the Met...whom she has retained to eyeball the oil....Tom Koelbel's portrayal of the snooty, self-absorbed and self-righteous art connoisseur is spot on....Extra points to director Richard Powers-Hardt for fashioning a set that captures Maude's orientation. In this contest of wills and wits lies the potential for a dramedy that Sachs's script never fulfills. As intentional as Austin and Koelbel may be in capturing their characters' egos and vulnerabilities, the tussle gets a bit tedious and redundant. Even when their combat erupts into moments of poignant self-revelation that might yield compromise, the arc of the play collapses. There are no winners in the end, save that Maude will fight on. We are left hanging, and so is the wannabe Pollock." - Herbert Paine, Broadway World (click here to read the complete review)