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« Preview: 70mm Festival at The Music Box Somewhere Between: An Interview with Filmmaker Linda Goldstein Knowlton »

Review Mon Jan 14 2013

No Honor Among Thieves... Or Is There?

Henry Moore is Melting
Cold Basement Dramatic's production of Jenny Seidelman's Henry Moore is Melting makes its home at the historical Atheneaum Theater . The theater opened in 1911 as a part of the campus of St. Alphonsus Catholic Church, which still stands majestically next to the theater. It houses a 950-seat main stage theater and three studio theaters, as well as a reception room.

A five minute walk took us down an awkwardly long and winding hallway to Studio One, a 67-seat black box theater and Henry Moore's temporary home. We sat down in the last row of chairs, which were reminiscent of those in an old airliner, and settled in to see a play about which I only knew three things: 1. It was about Irish gypsies; 2. It involved art; and 3. It was based on a true story.

The true story took place in 2005, when one of Moore's bronze statues, Reclining Figure, was stolen from the Henry Moore Institute in Leeds by a group of Irish Travelers. It is believed that the sculpture was melted down for scrap and sold for only a fraction of its estimated value. Seidelman's play brings these events and characters to life in a fast-paced, whiskey-filled, understatedly witty and passionate tale of a young man who loves art more than anything else in the world.

The house lights went down around 7:32pm, and a voice filled the small theater, warning the audience that the show involved smoke and gunshots. Alright -- I thought -- this is going to be good.

The play, directed by Mikey Laird, is presented in one 85-minute, heart-pounding act. It begins with a description of the Henry Moore sculpture, now sitting in the back of a truck, heisted from the Henry Moore Institute in Leeds.

It wasn't until now that all that art history knowledge I pride myself on helped me make the connection between the title of the play and the artist himself. Two years ago, I visited the Henry Moore exhibit at the Botanic Gardens in Denver. A few months later, I discovered the Moore sculpture that rests outside of the Contemporary Gallery at the Art Institute of Chicago. I was blown away by the beautiful and robust abstract representations of women.

The prop decisions weren't the only thing that made the play believable. The cast's Irish accents were a refreshingly shining beacon of accuracy in a world of normally overacted ethnic role-playing.

In addition, despite the meager set, which was divided into three unique spaces, and a fourth invisible one beyond the space of the theater itself, the actors were able to paint a picture in the distance of the stolen sculpture that was undeniably real in the mind's eye, but in fact was only the dark hallway through which we all had entered the theater.

The main character, Tommy, played by Mickey O'Sullivan, represents the overarching themes of the play -- a passion for art as a piece of someone's life and as something that should be shared. O'Sullivan brilliantly portrays one man's struggle with his conscience as he chooses between his love for art and his clan's survival, and the same man's spiral into desperation.

Tommy's uncle, Mac, played by Brian Rohde, plans to melt the Moore sculpture down and sell the bronze it yields. Mac's right hand man and Tommy's brother, Finn (Ryan Hallahan), is willing to accomplish this goal by any means necessary. Tommy's problems begin when he makes a deal behind his "businessman" uncle's back to buy the sculpture. The consequences affect everyone in his life, including his love, Carrie (Sarah Shirkey), his old friend Jimmy Johnson (Adam Overberg) and a Scotland Yard dectective, Charlie (Christopher Donaldson).

The actors are all part of Cold Basement Dramatics, a company dedicated to "revealing the veiled," according to its founder, Jack Bourgeois.

Henry Moore is Melting plays through Jan. 20 at the Atheneaum Theater, 2936 N. Southport Ave. Showtimes and tickets can be found on the theater's calendar.

 
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Architecture Tue Nov 03 2015

Paul Goldberger Describes the "Pragmatism and Poetry" of Frank Gehry's Architecture in His New Book

By Nancy Bishop

Architecture critic Paul Goldberger talks about Frank Gehry's life and work in a new book.
Read this feature »

Steve at the Movies Fri Jan 01 2016

Best Feature Films & Documentaries of 2015

By Steve Prokopy

Read this column »

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