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Keith Burridge’s New Play, “The Art of Deception,” Is Interesting, But It Needs Some Work

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Common Ground Theatre is currently hosting PlayGround: A Theater Cooperative’s production of The Art of Deception, a new play by University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill research scientist and university professor Keith Burridge. The script has some problems; and although we agree somewhat about them we are undertaking a new structure for our column in which, rather than achieving agreement we are going to spice things up a bit.

Here’s where we agree. The play is well performed and entertaining. It is about the famous Dutch artist, Han van Meegeren (1889-1947), who forged many Dutch masters, including Frans Hals, Pieter de Hooch, Gerard ter Borch, and Johannes Vermeer. Van Meegeren’s forgeries were uncovered after World War II, when it was discovered he had sold one of his own purported Vermeers to a wealthy Dutchman who, in turn, sold it to German Reichsmarschal Hermann Goering. Thus, Van Meegeren had been complicit in treason. And thereby hangs the story.

This show is generally well directed by Laurel Ullman, except that the scene changes are too long and noisy, and interrupt the flow of the piece. Lighting is mostly comfortable, but for fades to black when should be go to black.

John Paul Middlesworth performs Van Meegeren with élan, as a likable, charming guy who is also a sly old rake. His transitions from ailing elderly to youthful and back again are believable.

Reid Dalton glistens as Abraham Bredius, the art critic, a man full of himself and anxious to propound his knowledge. His performance is stellar.

Joanna Oelermans, Meegeren’s model, mistress, and then wife, is played by Lori Ingle Taylor with confidence and sophistication.

Joop Piller, Meegeren’s apprehender and questioner is brought to us by Ken Wolpert, who manages a stunning vocal range.

PlayGround: A Theater Cooperative will stage Keith Burridge's "The Art of Deception" March 14-22 in Durham's Common Ground Theatre

PlayGround: A Theater Cooperative will stage Keith Burridge’s “The Art of Deception” March 14-22 in Durham’s Common Ground Theatre

But this show left us with divided opinions and we will now play “she says, he says.”

MARTHA SAYS: The Art of Deception is a very amusing story with two ironic twists. However, it could easily have been done without an intermission if the pace at the beginning and the scene changes were quicker. I did not see it to be a character study of anyone, but a tale of what trouble forging can cause in the end.

CHUCK SAYS: This play has at least three and possibly four unnecessary characters. The nurse, the son, and the art dealer are one-dimensional characters that their actors worked strenuously to bring some life to, but the exposition they offer could be accomplished in other dialogues or as flashback dialogues. More fleshing out of Han and Joanna van Meegeren is needed to reveal the underlying ironies that contribute to the basic irony which is the topic of the story. The “made-for-TV” quality of short scenes with sparse information didn’t work for me; I need more meat to make the characters come to life.

That said, we encourage audiences to view this work and to be plentiful in the feedback. We think this is a play that can contribute to our understanding of the art world — and especially of the recent history involving the outrages of the Second World War. But we believe The Art of Deception needs work, and the cast has shown their appreciation for the playwright’s efforts.

NOTE: PlayGround, which has been in operation for four years, founded the monthly “Almost Ready” staged-reading series at The ArtsCenter in Carrboro.

SECOND OPINION: March 12th Durham, NC Indy Week mini-preview by Byron Woods: http://www.indyweek.com/indyweek/the-art-of-deception/Event?oid=3855806.

PlayGround: A Theater Cooperative presents THE ART OF DECEPTION at 7:30 p.m. March 20-22 at Common Ground Theatre, 4815B Hillsborough Rd., Durham, NC 27705.

TICKETS: $19 ($15 students and seniors).

BOX OFFICE: 919-384-7817 or https://www.artful.ly/store/events/2659.

SHOW: https://www.facebook.com/events/224134407776160/ and http://cgtheatre.com/events.

VENUE: http://cgtheatre.com/ and https://www.facebook.com/cgtheatre.

DIRECTIONS/PARKING: http://cgtheatre.com/directions.

OTHER LINKS:

Keith Burridge, Ph.D. (playwright): http://www.med.unc.edu/cellbiophysio/faculty/burridge (UNC-Chapel Hill School of Medicine Department of Cell Biology and Physiology bio) and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Keith_Burridge (Wikipedia).

Laurel Ullman (director): http://www.araonline.tv/html/female_talent___laurel_ullman.html (Artists Resource Agency bio).

EDITOR’S NOTE:

Martha Keravuori is a life-long theater artist — an actress, director, and stage manager — in North Carolina, around the country, and overseas. She has a theater degree from UNC-Greensboro, and has been active in the arts in Raleigh for the past 40 years. Martha is the retired executive director of the North Carolina Theatre Conference. Chuck Galle returned to Raleigh last year after a 17-year absence. He was active in community theater for many years, and directed the troupe of maximum-security inmates at Raleigh’s Central Prison known as the Central Prison Players. In New England, he performed on stage, on TV, and in films. He is the author of Stories I Never Told My Daughter — An Odyssey, which can be ordered on his website: http://www.chuckgalle.com/. Chuck Galle and Martha Keravuori review theater for Boom! Magazine of Cary. Click here to read more of their reviews for Boom! Magazine and here to read more of their reviews for Triangle Review and Triangle Arts and Entertainment.

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