by Bill Garry
You walk through the intimate theater's door into a kitschy, run-down mobile home in Bakersfield. Mellow music from a local radio station is playing. Maude Gutman, foul-mouthed and 70, is sitting at her kitchen table waiting for a visitor. Soon, Lionel Percy, weary, wary and pushing 80, arrives. Maude paid for an elite New York art expert to appraise the painting she bought for $3 and thinks may be a valuable Jackson Pollock.
You begin to think that this is going to be a polite comedy of manners - from-the-gut Gutman and prissy Percy shuffling around the trailer park, zinging one-liners at each other.
But then Percy erupts. He comes alive in a powerful speech about art, integrity and Jackson Pollock. He dances. He jabs. He launches the play into orbit. A sitcom about classes becomes a verbal and physical swordfight between well-armed equals.
Who will win? Gutman? Percy? Truth? And whose truth? You'll have to see this riveting revival of writer/director Stephen Sachs' play, now in an extended run at the Fountain Theatre, to find out.
Sachs' two-hander relies heavily on the acting talents of its stars. They deliver. Jenny O'Hara portrays a too-clever-by-half Gutman as a combination of sauciness, intelligence, ferocity and pathos. Nick Ullett inhabits the pompous and sad Percy, quashing his feelings whenever they don't serve his gods (art and integrity, if you haven't figured it out).
These two complicated human beings connect, retreat, butt heads, detente, spin out-of-control and ultimately balance in a fast-moving hour-and-fifteen minutes. I wanted more, as so many possibilities about humanity, divinity, and Maude and Lionel's relationship are introduced.
As usual, the Fountain's production is a first-class team effort. Sachs wrote the play six years ago for O'Hara and Ullett, a real-life, long-married couple. Creatives Jeffrey McLaughlin (scenic design), Bill E. Kickbush (lighting) and Peter Bayne (sound) beautifully support the storytelling, directing the audience to see and hear what the director wants at the moment he wants it.
Bakersfield Mist has been extended through January 30. If you are interested in the questions of art, integrity, and life (and who in creative Los Angeles isn't?), explore them with Maude and Lionel before your, I mean their, curtain falls.
Extended again! Bakersfield Mist is now playing through February 26th at the