Nestled in the makeshift performance space of Plymouth Church resides Boulevard Theatre's latest work: Stephen Sachs' Bakersfield Mist. Directed by Mark Bucher, he piece raises relevant questions, down to the core of what makes art true, and who gets to say so.
David Flores analyzing Matt Specht's original Polluck-inspired painting entitled "Summertime: Number 8A, 1947". All photos courtesy of Troy Freund Photography.
When Bakersfield trailer park resident Maude Gutman discovers a decidedly ugly painting crammed in a corner, she simply has to have it - to mock, of course. However, when a local art teacher gets a peek at it, he determines that it might be an authentic Jackson Polluck.
To determine the legitimacy of the work, Maude brings in renowned art expert Lionel Percy to analyze the painting. Needless to say, the two personalities clash, but find middle ground in the most surprising of places.
Flores and Herbstreit-Kalinyen.
The story feels like a self-reflective choice for the Boulevard Theatre. Having moved away from fully produced performance and towards concert readings, the company must answer these major questions in their own work. What makes art, or in this case, theatre authentic? Who determines what that means?
David Flores, Carole Herbstreit-Kalinyen, and David Ferrie. Photo courtesy of Troy Freund Photography.
By Maude's scruples, Boulevard hits the mark with this piece. The performance, while simple in staging, strikes at the heart of viewers, whether they 'side' moreso with Lionel or Maude. Carole Herbstreit-Kalinyen brings a raw, unfiltered quality to the character, but never ceases to have true intention at her core. David Flores' Lionel is guarded and deliberate. Constantly maintaining his patience with Maude, Flores' performance is always moments from erupting into passion. The story falls into the smooth soundtrack of David Ferrie's narrations.
The play, reasonably so, does not assert who gets to decide what's real or not. However, it allows the audience to consider new evidence - perhaps the creator plays a role, but truth is just as dependent upon the eye of the beholder. Even in this condensed format, Bucher brings audiences a step closer to one another through this touching story.