Brilliant – the work of Edward Gorey can only be described with that word. And honestly, coming out of Life Jacket’s Gorey: The Secret Lives of Edward Gorey, that’s the only word that came to mind. Playing at the HERE Arts Center, this play written and directed by Travis Russ should be in the top of your must watch list this month. Funny, direct, ugly and beautiful all intertwine to create one of the best examinations of an artist’s life that I’ve seen on stage. It’s never corny, doesn’t take itself too seriously, but there’s no denying that its subtle philosophy and bold approach will have you researching Gorey’s work once the play is done.
Three actors tackling a lifetime. Dialogue curated from letters. Parts of his work displayed through plot points and beats. It’s not only an examination of an artist, it is in fact an exploration of the self in which the art resides. Talent can be as much of a blessing as it can be a curse. Russ focuses on the joy of this dilemma instead of focusing on the agony of the artistic struggle. Sacrifices make sense, and solitude is heightened by imagination. This is what I felt as I went through the 65 minutes this play ran. This is what the production team accomplished. By staying with one character
His whole life is played by Andrew Dawson, Phil Gillen, and Aidan Sank in three different stages of his life. A young and naive dreamer, a cynical and successful artist, and the old and endearing sage. These three interact with one another; warning each other, teaching, and finally realizing things together. The chemistry between these thespians was the touch that gave everything else life. What we have here is a cast so in sync that if something went wrong with a technical aspect, we wouldn’t care. By staying with one person being played by three characters, even in the best of ensembles, there’s a weak link. It is very rare when you can’t pin point it right away. There’s no weak link here, and you shouldn’t miss this occasion.
What Russ and company have given us is a love letter to a man that shied away from love. A light inside the darkness of an artist. And it let us see how much he starved for those, and how little he ended up actually wanting them. In the process, he made everyone come to terms with the fact that artists are just human, that they are not different, that they go through the same questions as others. The difference is the way they see life. Russ did this with a team of technicians and designers that must have been in his brain, because if this is not what his vision was, then they both made each other better. I don’t know about you, but this is the kind of theater I like paying to see.
Gorey: The Secret Lives of Edward Gorey is a play that demands for you to watch just to ask you “Why are you watching?” Shows about artists are generally very exclusive to its audience. Most of the time people that are not artists can’t really grasp the quirks of being one. Russ manages to let you in, and show you the human inside the creator, and ponders if they are one and the same. This is a question every citizen asks themselves about their work. After all, we are all not that different. Gorey: The Secret Lives of Edward Gorey will be playing at the HERE Arts Center till May 22, I recommend you make it a priority.
*All images via Jenny Anderson
Out of 4 stars:
Twisted Talk: Are you familiar with artist Edward Gorey? When was the last time you saw a ‘wow’ show? Discuss below!