note: entire contents copyright 2004 by Beverly Creasey
Did you know that the national headquarters of CARD, the “Coalition Against Reverse Discrimination” is located in Boston? Not to mention that other bastion of right-wing thinking, “Family First.” Pretty scary stuff right in our own backyard! Well, you can discuss racism and discrimination ‘til you’re blue in the face but you won’t find a better way to view the issues than Thomas Gibbons’ play, PERMANENT COLLECTION. (You may recall Zeitgeist Stage’s stirring production of another Gibbons’ script, BEE LUTHER-HATCHEE, last season.)
The New Rep’s searing production pits a sharp, newly appointed arts administrator, who is African-American, against a conservative, white conservator who disapproves of changing foundation policy in order to display the African art currently in storage.
What institution hasn’t faced the task of revisiting and revising the ‘Founding Father’s’ policies. The Isabella Stuart Gardiner Museum grappled with it. The MFA is still facing criticism. Gibbons takes a swipe, too, at the crass commercialism embraced by museums nowadays for the ready money in “Helga” bags or Van Gogh mugs. And he gets his licks in about the morality of the press while he’s at it.
Gibbons’ characters are more than representative sides of an argument. They’re flesh and blood… vulnerable, feeling human beings. Director Adam Zahler’s production crackles with emotion. Clark Jackson as the new guy on the block, exudes strength of purpose and a little touch of hubris. Benjamin Evett, as his nemesis, is utterly convincing as the white guy who just doesn’t “get it.” As Jackson’s character so bluntly puts it, sincerity doesn’t count: “Visibility is what I care about.”
Giselle Jones gives a charming performance as the administrator’s earnest, perhaps too trusting assistant. Everyone is a pawn to the slick reporter (smoothly played by Tracy Oliverio) who finagles unwise quotes which she happily transfers into permanent black and white. Sylvia Ann Soares is the unassuming assistant pushed aside by the new director and Paul D. Farwell is the “Founding Father” whose presence is felt in every corner of the foundation, even after his death. Farwell gives a wry performance as the charismatic curmudgeon who started the ball rolling and now watches it crash into the 21st century. PERMANENT COLLECTION is fascinating food for thought and the New Rep gives it a production worthy of the material. Don’t miss it. The run is only temporary.