REVIEW: Burien Actors Theatre’s Visiting Cezanne is a delightful production


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From left to right, artist Paul Cezanne (Ken Holmes) negotiates with his gardener, Germain Vallier (Phillip Keiman) in Burien Actors Theatre’s comedy-drama Visiting Cezanne, running through March 10. The two have found themselves transported, through the magic in their paintings, from 1900 France to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 2016 New York.

Paul Cezanne (Ken Holmes) discovers the tangible magic in one of his paintings in Burien Actors Theatre’s comedy-drama Visiting Cezanne, running through March 10.

Review by Shelli Park
Photos by Michael Brunk

The lights come up as a woman is in the process of attempting to hang herself. She is interrupted, thankfully, talked down by a lost stranger. The scene changes and we are in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Paintings and the painted speak, conspiring to visit the past.

Visiting Cezanne, Burien Actors Theatre’s latest production, is based on a fun and fantastical premise utilized to bring home an important message: “Banish despair; Keep working; All is not hopeless.”

Visiting Cezanne, written by Duane Kelly and directed by Mark “Moc” Moser, hosts a talented cast.

My favorite character is Bessie, a young woman who is on a journey to write a book about artists who were active in Paris during the late 1900’s; a very exciting time in art history. Bessie is played by Erica McAdams-Roth. Bessie is well-mannered and reserved, but you can sense that there is more to her as the story progresses. McAdams-Roth does a fabulous job developing her character and creating a feeling of depth and growth.

Nora, the main character, is on a journey of her own. At the end of her rope, nearly literally, she wonders what life has in store. She is an artist who feels unfulfilled. Michelle Conklin does a great job as Nora. Conklin exudes the disenchantment and dissatisfaction that Nora has accumulated over her lifetime. If Bessie is well-mannered, Nora is self-absorbed. They work well together using the natural tension of opposites navigating relationship.

Cezanne is played by Ken Holmes. Cezanne is as disappointed in life and his art as Nora is in hers. When they meet it is a clash of the personality titans. Holmes is wonderful as Cezanne. He fulfilled all of my expectations for his character. He has depth and timing. I fully appreciated his presence in this production.

The glue that holds the characters together and propels the story is Cezanne’s gardener, Germain Vallier, played by Phillip Keiman. Vallier is illiterate, but very smart. He’s rough, but tenderness shows through. Keiman is entertaining and holds his own with this talented cast.

Visiting Cezanne has some fun special effects created by Zanna King (Lighting) and Eric Dickman (Sound). Magic fills the stage. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, as it exists in this production, is well-designed. It takes a lot of creativity to fit all of the necessary scenes within the acting zone. Cezanne’s studio is wonderfully crammed, as an artist’s studio should be. I felt a bit jealous of his space with a beautiful garden just outside.

Life is never quite what you expect it to be. Sometimes it’s disappointing, and sometimes things come together quite nicely. Often it is about one’s attitude and approach to life. Each character has something to learn in Visiting Cezanne. And each comes away changed for the better.

The play has many wonderful moments and memorable lines. Cezanne speaks about his creative process, noting that it begins with a moment of dread, and with a still life you have to pay attention to how the objects communicate amongst themselves. He goes so far as to say that the apple loves having its portrait painted. He speaks of glimpsing the truth below the surface. Each character wonders what is their purpose in life? Where do I belong?

Where do you belong? You belong at BAT’s production of Visiting Cezanne this weekend. It is a delightful production.

From left to right, aspiring art writer Bessie Shaw (Erica McAdams-Roth), unknown artist Nora Baker (Michelle Conklin) and gardener Germain Vallier grapple with Nora’s magical transport from 2016 New York to 1900 France in Burien Actors Theatre’s comedy-drama Visiting Cezanne, running through March 10.

Germain Vallier (Phillip Keiman) has a moment of frustration in Burien Actors Theatre’s comedy-drama Visiting Cezanne, running through March 10.

From left to right, gardener Germain Vallier (Phillip Keiman) sits as a model for a painting by his employer, artist Paul Cezanne in Burien Actors Theatre’s comedy-drama Visiting Cezanne, running through March 10.

PERFORMANCE SCHEDULE, $5 OFF COUPON & TICKETS
Performances are Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m., and Sunday matinees at 2 p.m. at Burien Actors Theatre, 14501 4th Ave SW in Burien.

Also, print the coupon below to save $5 OFF:

Click image to print coupon.

Ticket prices range from $7 to $20. Student tickets are $10. Enjoy opening weekend deals:  Tickets on opening night, Feb. 15, include free admission to the opening night party. Only on Saturday, Feb. 16 all tickets are half price. Only on Sunday, Feb. 17 which is BAT’s Seven Buck Sunday, admission is just $7.

For tickets, special deals or other information, go to www.burienactorstheatre.org or call 206-242-5180.

Visiting Cezannne is sponsored by 4Culture and Pickled & Preserved.

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