The Credeaux Canvas of the title is actually a forgery, but it is just one of many things that appear somewhat questionable in this play by Keith Bunin. Relying on an often-used dramatic device -- a model posing for an artist -- the playwright has come up with a few intriguing variations on the theme, but each one becomes more and more illogical as the play progresses. By the end, there is no one on stage left to sympathize with, and viewers are left with an unfinished portrait of modern love.
The action takes place in an East Village apartment, where two twentysomething friends live. Although it has lots of space and a skylight, it's got only one bedroom, so someone has to sleep on the couch. That someone is Winston, a talented art student who hides behind his painting and his dead-end library job. Through excessive exposition, we find out that flatmate Jamie is the son of an art dealer who recently passed away and has left him nothing. He also has a girlfriend, Amelia, who often stays the night but is looking for more of an emotional connection. So when Jamie comes up with a scheme to have Winston forge a nude portrait of his girl so he can con an art patron out of big bucks, it's obvious where this is all headed. By the end, Jamie loses the sale, the girl, and his self-respect. Unfortunately, neither his friends nor the audience gain much more from having witnessed his downfall.
Director Brad Raimondo set up each scene well, even providing some clever tableaux in between. Act One made a smooth departure and landing under his guidance. What Raimondo cannot resolve is the shifting character motivations and uncontrolled outbursts in Act Two. After a tense and effective scene where the painting comes under the scrutiny of the potential buyer, all logic goes out the window. Amelia rejects Jamie, Winston rejects Amelia, Jamie resents his fate in life, and they all go their separate ways. Author Bunin expertly sketches out the preliminary plans for a well-drawn resolution, but can't fill in the colors to make the ending credible or involving.
The actors had their own challenges to surmount as well. Zack Calhoon got very little chance to be likable as spoiled "sport" Jamie, and Richard Lovejoy as Winston lost all integrity when he turned his back on Amelia for a seemingly silly reason. As the woman in the middle, Erin Cunningham came closest to making sense out of her character's choices, even when it involves a life-or-death decision. Ruth Ann Phimister was a breath of fresh air as the wealthy art lover, but her histrionics upon discovering she is being duped were a bit too over the top.
On the technical end, director Raimondo's apartment setting was believably sparse but unbelievably spacious. Also, a central door would have aided in giving angry exits more impact. Jessica Pabst dressed the set with appropriate accoutrements. Costumes, by Sarah Worrest, and sound, by Brad King, completed the illusion. Special mention goes to Morgan Anne Zipf, who cast such a marvelous moonlight glow through the skylight window as to distract from the play's shortcomings.
Lighting: 2/Sound: 1
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Copyright 2004 Elias Stimac