Last night I had the pleasure of seeing the aforementioned play I said I was going to go see, “Another Vermeer.”
The whole day surrounding seeing the play was quite an adventure. Getting to the play itself can be almost as thrilling as going and seeing the play ! Myself, my co-host (Sarah) and our friend from drama class (Catie) went to the New Haven train station thinking we wouldn’t have too much traffic, but lo-and-behold, everyone cut us off and I had to get off at the exit after the one we wanted, which was FILLED with construction traffic! Yay…! But luckily we still made a good train :)
The play was at the Abingdon Theatre, which conveniently, is right by Penn Station. We had some trouble finding the theatre because of the sign that says “Abingdon” was only a couple feet tall and wasn’t lit up or anything. We did find it though, and we were able to walk up a back stair case to the show, where we were met by Kelly Morgan (my theatre professor and director of the show!).
My general reaction is that the show was very good. The actors were overall excellent. The story was moving. Kelly Morgan (pictured right) did a wonderful job at directing this show and making the show flow very well. However, because I saw a dress tech rehearsal, some elements took me away from actually concentrating on the actors words.
Austin Pendleton (pictured left) starred as Han Van Meegeren, the painter who forged a famous Vermeer painting and sold it to someone in Germany. The play revolves around Van Meegeren’s experiences while in his tiny, cramped jail cell, waiting to either be freed or to have the ultimate punishment: death.
The space where the play was was VERY intimate. I had the pleasure of being able to sit in the front row, which is RIGHT next to the actors. They literally cross 2 feet or less in front of you. At some points the actors made these big gestures where their arms flailed back and I jumped every time! But I was fine. It was wonderful to be able to experience what Van Meegeren was going through first hand.
Pendleton at the beginning of the play has a confrontation with Vermeer (played by Dan Cordle). Pendleton’s character is looking for inspiration. He needs to create the same exact painting or else he could die. The stakes were high. Life or death.
Pendleton’s interactions with the other characters were intriguing as well. Justin Grace (who played Bram, the guard) became almost a sidekick to Pendleton through the way they got to know each other in the jail cell. Bram became Meegeren’s “model” to portray Jesus Christ. So, I don’t want to give a very lovely part of the show away, but I definitely recommend this show to the ladies!
Bram and Meegeren’s interactions were the most powerful. Bram was an innocent, naive character. He knew nothing about Meegeren and only knew what he was told from his life experiences. It was only through listening in on the large confrontation between Thom Christopher‘s character and Meegeren he was able to learn to make decisions for HIMSELF and not submit to others orders. Bram was not just the guard anymore…He became Bram, his own person. I was proud of him by the end of the play.
I was proud of Pendleton too. I haven’t seen him act in such length before. The last movie I saw him in was “Christmas With the Kranks” where he played a man who was a stranger to Jaime Lee Curtis’ character yet creepily knew a little too much about the family, but the family let him come to their Christmas party anyway, which turned out well. His character in “Another Vermeer” was a very interesting, challenging character to take on. Van Meegeren wanted to make a name for himself, so he forged a painting to help him earn some “fame.” But in the end, as the play truly projected this, it’s about being happy for who YOU are as an individual, and your accomplishments you complete yourself and not by using others around you. His character also happened to take a lot of drugs too, which in some ways definitely affected his characters “edginess” that he gave off while on stage.
Thom Christopher (pictured on right next to Pendleton) was another person I enjoyed. His character (whom I believe was Bradius?) was an art critic that knew Van Meegeren was right, but did not want him to get his way. He did not want his career to end because he did not report right. His character had a very strong guard, and was very successful in keeping that guard up with Van Meegeren. It was only when Pendleton truly built up all his courage to confront him in that moment his guard began to come down and gave in to Van Meegeren. Christopher’s loud, booming voice also made the character seem strong, and almost evil. But that made the character, and I truly enjoyed his performance.
Justin Grace (pictured left) was phenomenal as well. At the end I watched his eyes welling up with tears, and watched one single tear come out of his eye and just drip down his face. Bram was moved by Van Meegeren and in a way you could see that he wanted to be a part of his world.
The other guard, played by Christian Pedersen (pictured right), was wonderful as well. He moved me when he held the gun up to Van Meegeren. My heart was racing, and I thought he would have pulled the trigger on him…But thank goodness he didn’t! I enjoyed watching his transformation from the beginning of the play to the end of the play. By the end he finally realized, like Grace’s character, that maybe what others were saying about the painting were wrong. And even though he did not want to get too buddy-buddy with Pendleton afterwards, you got the sense that he realized this and he cared, even if it was only a bit.
Now one thing I must admit, I got distracted during the play by a few things. Because the space was very small, there were certain limitations to what you could see and couldn’t see. I didn’t get to really see the finished product of the replica Van Meegeren was working on, but I did get to see the postcard of the painting Van Meegeren was holding. It was very easy to hear the technical staff either typing or (very quietly) giving a cue. Because it was a tech-dress rehearsal, this is excusable and this should not effect anyone else seeing the play. But I also must say, I happened to be sitting next to the person who was on-book for the night (holding the script), so I got to see when the end was near and began to anticipate the end instead of just experiencing it for myself.
What was also wonderful about the performance in particular that night was that it was Austin Pendleton‘s birthday (HAPPY BIRTHDAY AUSTIN!)!! So we all got to celebrate afterwards with a piece of cake. Yum!
Overall, I had a wonderful experience at the Abingdon. And I truly feel you all should experience this too! Bloggers: Definitely check this play out at the Abingdon Theatre Company (the actual play is at the Dorothy Strelsin within the space)!!
Here are the dates for the play:
March 29 – April 20, 2008 :
Tuesday – Saturday at 7:30
Saturday at 2:00
Sunday at 3:00
Art can affect your life in so many ways…The arts in general have definitely affected myself as a person (in a very good way!), and I hope they do for you too. Please check out this show to see the challenges Art can bring to onesself!
To end this post, here’s a slide show of Vermeer’s paintings!
(Pictures courtesy of geocities.com, abingdontheatre.org, imdb.com, christianpedersen.com)