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Review- Bakersfield Mist: leaves the audience riveted

By Lilian Harrington

Bakersfield Mist

By Stephen Sachs

Directed by Jennifer Flowers

Ad Astra

57 Misterton St. The Valley

May 11 - June 3

Bookings: Try booking

Photography by Christopher Sharman

Funny and thought provoking, Ad Astra Creativity, presents Bakersfield Mist by Stephen Sachs. Stephen, is an award winning American playwright, and artistic director of the Fountain Theatre in Los Angeles; his play is a mix of humor, fraught emotion, tension and he questions issues which arise in society between class, education, common sense and life experience; he looks at belief and fake versus real, between two imposing characters who refuse to change their perspective. Bakersfield Mist was inspired by a true story about a retired, long haul, truck driver, Teri Horton, who bought a cheap painting for $5 from a junk store , and later learned that it could be a painting from a celebrated abstract impressionist

Maude Gutman,( played by Fiona Kennedy), a woman in her “fifties,” an unemployed bartender, who’s lived over 30 years in a trailer park bought this cheap painting and is about to trash it when someone convinces her that it might be a masterpiece by Jackson Pollock, the famous artist, and worth millions. She invites a world class expert from New York Lionel Percy (Steven Grice) to come and look at the painting. His considered opinion is that it is not authentic and so it becomes a battle of minds and perspectives. It’s poignant and funny, a modern drama that asks some vital questions about what makes art and people truly authentic! The two characters work on one another and little by little they start to see things from the other’s perspective.

This two hander is directed by Jennifer Flowers with the A.S. Greg Scurr, assisted by designer Bill Haycock, and a stellar technical production crew who helped create a strong atmosphere and authenticity in the set with great attention to finer details, giving audience a clear idea of Maude’s day to day life in the trailer, e.g. little touches such as the screen curtain at the door with the palm trees, plus the knitting under the table, along with the cheap decorations, Tupperware, the old paintings, all making a good statement and show the contrast between life of the snobby Lionel Percy, from New York, and the “uneducated” Maude Gutman , who’s attitudes and expectations are more graphic and earthy. Maude’s style of self -expression and costume is a strong contrast to the conservative Lionel, who wishes to finish the consultation quickly and leave. Does he really give Maude a well- considered answer, or does his opinion reflect how he has initially summed her up? If she’d been an educated woman would he have acted differently? He states that the painting is not authentic; it’s a fake imitation. Maude produces “evidence of a fingerprint” and other samples, she claims is evidence of Jackson Pollock’s work. Even though Lionel Percy has succumbed to some of Maude’s Jack Daniels whiskey, he still holds his view and will not be persuaded to change it. Her sudden behavior changes to violence, suicidal and manic outbursts, scare him, but they do not alter his opinion.

Stephen Sachs, has dwelt on the conflict between truth and belief in this play. He has astutely mixed humor in with conflicting views. Ad Astra’s talented cast have brought Bakersfield Mist to life on stage, through different vocal and physical levels, pace and timing, and have highlighted the poignant aspects of the play. It leaves the audience riveted. Congratulations to Jennifer Flowers and cast!!


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