Bakersfield Mist

Bakersfield Mist

Bakersfield Mist
By Stephen Sacks
Directed by Matt Pfeiffer
With Anne Hering and Steve Brady
Orlando Shakespeare Theater, Orlando FL

Is it “Art” if you like it enough to hang it on your wall; or is it “Art” because someone more important than you says so? Sad sack Maude Gutman (Hering) dumpster dives for décor; for three bucks picked up the ugliest painting this side of Art Basel. After surviving gun fire, a day in the middle of a trailer park road and a few weeks in the tackiest trailer west of the Pecos, the painting MIGHT be a gen-u-wine Jackson Pollock. World famous Art Authenticator Lionel Percy (Brady) deigns to visit dusty GPS-unacknowledged Bakersfield with the mission to authenticate or repudiate the canvas. He’s good but not infallible: can you spell “Getty Kouros?” He’s also a bit of a stuck-up ass; he belabors his credentials to the point you suspect none of them are real. Maude is certainly real: a busted marriage from an abusive husband, a son who could have been his daddy until he took the low road on the local highway; and she either quit or got fired from a bartending job for stealing a case of Jack. A stray winning Powerball high-ball sure would go down nice right about now.

At its heart, this is a culture clash story. Maude is beaten down white trash hoping for a break, Lionel a privileged demi-god with a Rolodex Obama would be jealous of. Maude needs a leg up while Lionel says “The life boat is full” even when CSI scale evidence says otherwise. Hering’s Maud had seen the flop and been to the river and while she may be uneducated she’s no dummy. She also had a cagey strategy; she plays all the low cards first but when cheap whiskey and guilt-inducing sex can’t get Lionel to budge she plays her CSI card. But damn, her attempts are heartfelt unlike Lionel’s strawman bluff. She goes to the edge to call him, and it works but just barely. Brady is dark browed and clings to his brief case like a life saver as he descends into Maude’s world, and it’s not enough to save him. His education and privilege overwhelm his factual knowledge, and his monolog about growing up and falling into the art vortex is epic. He may be a total jerk, but he OWNS the jerkiness. (Golf clap. Golf clap encore. Keep it down.)
Its two falls out of three, and winner takes nothing. Oh, did I mention the set? It looks JUST like my house. I wonder if I can buy the “Clown Tryptic” when the run is over. I’d go three….no… FIVE smackeroos. It’s THAT good.

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