Reviewed by Sarah Lockwood
I don’t get modern art. Once, I humored a friend and visited a modern art museum and I’m pretty sure I got my fill of neon text and rainbow stripes for a lifetime. That’s probably why I identified so much with Nick, a simple, hilarious British archeologist who claims the only art in the world begins and ends with the Renaissance. Nick, played by hilarious Andrew Firda, is one of four characters in Cadence Theatre Company’s humble and honest Sight Unseen.
Written by Donald Margulies, this play explores the career of American Jewish artist Jonathan Waxman. Jonathan has become the art scene’s newest visionary and decides to visit his ex, Patricia, while tending to a gallery opening in London. Margulies weaves intricate themes of fame, the purpose of art, relationships, identity, and the past (specifically the Jewish tradition) through conversations between Jonathan, Patricia, and Patricia’s husband, Nick, snippets of Jonathan’s interview with German journalist Grete, and flashbacks to Jonathan’s days as an art student.
A rotating stage constructed by Joel Ernst facilitates smooth transitions from present day to past, from gallery to countryside to art studio. The intimate Theatre Gym at the Virginia Rep Center allows for truly genuine scenes. I felt involved in the awkward moments, the sympathetic looks; I was nervous for Laine Satterfield’s fingers as I watched her peel carrots and potatoes in the kitchen as Patricia.
Sight Unseen’s simple set allows the actors to shine. The somber plot is riddled with comedic relief, provided mostly by Andrew Firda’s dry British Nick. Laine Satterfield expertly navigates the transitions from young naïve portrait model and lover, to stoic hardworking country wife. Heather Falks commands the interview scenes as Grete with her amusing German accent and telling looks. Neil Brookshire is a strong presence as Jonathan, showing us the complexities in the artist’s dilemmas throughout the play.
“What is this thing called art?” Jonathan asks as he questions his own career and identity. “How does it serve the masses? Can it?”
If you ask me, or Nick, art is not a modern art museum. But, one thing that is art is this charming work of so many talented theatrical artists, directed by Rusty Wilson. And it can serve the masses as an entertaining and enlightening evening if you give it a shot. I would recommend this show for sixteen and up as there are a couple of F-bombs and some adult content.
From Cadence Theatre Company, in partnership with Virginia Rep, Sight Unseen is playing at Virginia Rep’s Theatre Gym through November 8. Tickets are available at Virginia Rep or call 804-282-2620.