Wednesday, July 5, 2006

Set your sights on success

Company of Fools presents 'Sight Unseen'

Express Staff Writer

Joel Vilinksy and Anna Johnson explore ambition and first love in Donald Marguilies "Sight Unseen." Photo by Kirsten Shultz

When art consultant to the stars, Barbara Guggenheim was in the Wood River Valley last month she talked about the art of collecting art. There are lots of different types of collectors, she said. Among them are those who buy art, sight unseen, based on the name of the artist.

In Donald Marguilies, Obie winning play, "Sight Unseen," the protagonist is that kind of artist.

Ambitious and attractive, Jonathon Waxman (Joel Vilinksy) commands respect as well as high prices in the art world. But was he always thus?

Fifteen years after abandoning his lover, Patricia (Anna Johnson), Waxman is on the brink of a big exhibition in London. But first he decides to visit Patricia—who now lives in the countryside married to an older, stable British man (Andrew Alburger)—partially to reacquire a portrait he'd once done of her.

Waxman's visit sets in motion a love triangle suppressed for years. But this slant is not the only conflict in the play. Acquiring the portrait may help him regain his unblemished reputation—the growing opinion is that he has "sold out."

In London, Waxman is interviewed by a feisty German journalist, Grete (Claudia McCain), who tries to force him to discuss his Jewish heritage in relation to his art. Already touchy about his less-than-humble self-promotion, his hostility explodes.

"There's a piece of all of us in these people," said Danielle Kennedy, director of this Company of Fools production. "There's idea of being ambitious and the first love and all that comes with that, versus middle-age and settling. Someone might say that you've settled but maybe with you its about safety and there's comfort in that as well. There's no final verdict. It's all these reflections, and it's so close to the bone it gets under your skin. It's also so funny. We're very funny in our foibles. So you get to see all the colors of humanity."

The cast for the play is the same that presented a reading of it last November.

"It's a wonderful cast. Lucky me. This is my directorial debut up here, and they say that 99.9 percent of a play's success is casting," said Kennedy, a former Ketchum resident who now lives in Los Angeles.

With funny and incisive dialogue, Margulies' characters are revealed throughout the time shifting play in interesting and subtly constructed scenes. It requires a lot of vulnerability, Kennedy said.

"The last scene is the first time Jonathon and Patricia meet, in college, so we began rehearsing in sequence. By the time we get to scene one it's current time. The fun of it all of is figuring out who is pushing whose buttons."

"Sight Unseen," at the Liberty Theatre, Hailey, runs July 12-July 30. Curtain is 7 p.m., Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday, and 8 p.m., Friday and Saturday. The "Pay What You Feel" preview is Wednesday, July 12, at 7 p.m. Ten front row seats are sold for $10 each night.

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