Center Stage with Pat Launer on KSDS JAZZ88
The Old Globe (in the Copley Auditorium of the SD Museum of Art )
AIRDATE: AUGUST 22, 2008
Jonathan Waxman is lost. He may seem like he’s sailing through life, an internationally acclaimed artist whose high-priced paintings are bought sight unseen, before they’re even created. He may be making his big European debut with a retrospective in London . But the central character of “Sight Unseen” is adrift; he’s lost his parents, his passion and his conscience.
He’s come to a rural English farmhouse to visit Patricia, the college lover and muse he dumped summarily 15 years ago. He’s looking for something, and we’re never quite sure what. He leaves with a piece of his past, once again devastating the hapless Patricia. Her husband, Nick, also filled with anger and pain, unleashes all his resentment and jealousy on Jonathan, skewering the man – and modern art. The triangle gets smaller, tighter, more intense, moving backward and forward in time. We ultimately see how Jonathan and Patricia were when they first began, he a shy, tentative artist, she a proud dilettante. Hopscotching across the decades, we watch them and their relationship evolve and devolve. And between those scenes are snippets of an interview with German art critic Grete, who nails Jonathan on his hypocrisies, and riles him with her Jew-baiting questions.
The play is breath-taking, with its sharp, smart dialogue, its many layers of anguish and subtext, its unresolved issues and ultimate uncertainties. No heroes or easy answers here. The motivations and interactions are as messy as real life. And that’s a stunning accomplishment.
In this Obie Award-winning 1992 drama, Donald Margulies is contemplating identity and art, fame and insecurity, fathers and sons, anti-Semitism and Jewish paranoia. The Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright paints small, elusive figures on an expansive canvas, filled with color and complexity, ideas and imagery, with flagrant dollops of ambiguity. His multi-hued characters are desperately flawed, hurtful and self-destructive. Like the play, Jonathan’s paintings, he confesses, are about “the lengths people go to in order to feel something.”
The Old Globe Theatre production, nimbly directed by local talent Esther Emery, is a finely etched and moving piece of work. It plumbs the play’s depth and nuance, but less of its humor and sexuality. The performances are solid and the interactions intense. As Jonathan, Anthony Crane wafts in and out of being believably Jewish, but he’s strong in his emotional range. Kelly McAndrew skillfully transforms Patricia from disenchanted drudge to seductive ingénue. Local favorite Ron Choularton, reprising a role he first tackled in 1993, is spot-on as Nick, shaggy and taciturn, with a lifetime of bitterness roiling under the surface.
If you don’t emerge from this provocative, perceptive play with tons to talk about, you haven’t been paying attention.
The Old Globe production of “Sight Unseen” plays in the Copley Auditorium at the Museum of Art , through September 7.
©2008 PAT LAUNER