We’ve all been raised with the admonition “Don’t touch that.” Whether it is the hot stove, an expensive vase or a downed electrical wire, we know the inherent danger of disobeying. If you are a security guard at an art museum, your job is to protect the paintings or sculptures or artifacts from inquisitive children and thieves bent on destruction or financial mischief. Might you, the guarder of the masterpieces, ever be tempted to reach out and touch one yourself?
Such is the premise of Jessica Dickey’s intriguing play “The Rembrandt” currently center stage at TheaterWorks Hartford until Sunday, May 14. To complement this production, there is an art exhibit at the theater, entitled “Riff on Rembrandt,” that features a selection of local artists who were challenged to create a piece of art reminiscent of contemplation as well as an exhibit at the Wadsworth Atheneum of associated works. Neil Patel’s inviting museum set takes the audience from present day deeply into the past and back again to today.
Michael Chenevert’s Henry is the affable museum guard who hasn’t lost his skills as a teacher as he indoctrinates the newest member of the staff, an ambitious street artist Dodger, an outspoken Ephraim Birney, who is already looking for advancement on his first day at work. They are joined by Amber Reauchean Williams’ Madeline, who is grieving for the recent loss of her grandmother and is embracing the new art of being a copiest. All three are showing their fascination with a painting by Rembrandt, Aristotle with a Bust of Homer, until Dodger challenges the pair to reach out and actually touch the master work. Of particular interest is the gold chain worn by the great philosopher that is a symbol of great honor. Their invasive moves threaten to start a domino effect, tumbling them back in history, revealing an emotional journey of sacrifice and love.
Art clearly speaks to us, individually, in a variety of ways that move us. Will Dodger’s sudden and unexpected taunt cause a man who has been entrusted with the safety of these works to impulsively comply? Will her sadness impel Madeline to follow suit? What role will the armed security guard Jonny, a no-nonsense Brandon Espinoza play in this dramatic moment? Add in visits with Simon, at this performance played by Michael Bryan French and at other times by Bill Buell, who is Henry’s dying companion as well as Homer, and Henry as the artist himself as well as the others as personages in Rembrandt’s life and you have a plethora of information about art in this 90 minute production directed with a skilled hand by Maria Mileaf.
For tickets ($25-65), call TheaterWorks Hartford, 233 Pearl Street, Hartford at 860-527-7838 or online at twhartford.org. Performances are Tuesday-Thursday at 7:30 p.m., Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 4 p.m. and 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2:30 p.m. Check online for required mask performances.
Come meet Rembrandt the Dutch painter, considered one of the greatest storytellers in the history of art, who had the ability to portray people with a purity of light and darkness, relying on only the colors of dark brown and black, earthy yellows and deep red. Your eyes and heart will be opened.