Theatre Mirror Reviews - "Painted Alice"

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"What Happened in Boston, Willie"

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note: entire contents copyright 2002 by Larry Stark

"Painted Alice"

by William Donnelly
Directed by Heather McNamara

Light Design by Christopher Scully
Set Design by Harrison Rabel
Original Music & Sound Design by William Donnelly
Costume Design by Heather McNamara Video Director Kevin LaVelle
Property Design by Ron De Marco
Stage Manager Dave Poole

Betsy Roe

Heather McNamara
Dinah, Lori, Pratolini, Hasen, Caddy, Lawyer

Irene Daly
Parker, Fury, Griffin, Varol, Sucre, Hattie, Grace

James Henderson
The Artist, Guard, Sheldon, Vermiller, Finn, Mose, Bailiff

The central image of William Donnelly's new play is of a woman, brush in hand, standing before a wide, white, empty canvas. His play is about why artists make things, and the even tougher problem of how a creative individual defines "success". The early part of the play is directly and specifically concerned with this particular artist's relations with the woman she lives with, with the woman who commissioned the painting --- now months late, and with two other artists, one a suicide on the very brink of fame and fortune, the other a man whose new show is hailed as a breakthrough event --- and who may have made a play for the attention of the painter's lover. Having set the problem in very realistic terms, Donnelly sets about solving it through a dream/nightmare in which avatars (and that word is used correctly here) of the iconic figures and scenes in Lewis Carroll's masterpiece enact facets of the painter's world, arguing with this Alice about what's on her mind --- until she returns to reality to make a decision.

If anything I've said intrigues you, Go See The Play. It's astonishingly good.

I have the urge to prattle on about every little detail ("You know what she said to me? She wants lots of Yellows in this painting. 'Use lots of yellows!' she said, 'I'm going to hang it in my Sun Room!' What am I, a goddamn interior decorator?") that the four actors (three enacting twenty-one roles!) executed on Harrison Rabel's continually surprising set (with Kevin LaVelle's hugely projected video sequences). I will say I loved it, but My opinion is irrelevant next to Yours and you can't have an opinion without seeing the thing itself. I know, and know I like, the company's and the playwright's work, and I was told backstage details about the show's making that might prejudice your eye about it. Also, I have been nagged for over two weeks by both a novelette and a short-story I have not had time to write down --- though in over thirty years of writing I have managed to sell only two short-stories, ever. What I'm saying is you can't trust anyone's opinion but Your Own but if you don't go in the next three weeks to see what is probably the best new play of this theatrical year you have no excuse for not learning about all the incredibly fascinating details I have left out of this review.

That's all. But, just to show why you can't trust this reviewer's eye, let me quote from the opening of a creation of my own --- very old now --- called The Readiness Is All:
"It comes down, at last, to one person, alone, sitting before a blank page, a blank screen, a blank canvas, an empty stage --- a person, completely alone, determined to make something in that void, to dredge from the depths of experience, of existence, of very life itself a vision of the world so true, so compelling, so unique as to blind the viewer with its sudden, surprising revelation of unnoticed truth. The first marks go on the page, already aglow with hints of inner vision. ..... "


"Painted Alice" (26 April - 11 May)
Old Library Leverett House, Harvard, Mill & Plympton Streets, CAMBRIDGE, MA

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide