The Color of Light
“A true to life collaboration of the sacred and the profane.”
Tenth Avenue Arts Center
930 Tenth Avenue
San Diego, CA 92101
(Easy Parking in 3 different lots within a block of the theater)
January 11 – February 3, 2018
Click HERE for more information
Creative Industry Professionals receive $10 OFF
Article by Philly Joe Swendoza
On December 11, 1949, the Bishop of Nice dedicated the first stone of the Rosary Chapel at Vence in southern France. Its creative genius, artist Henri Matisse, was too ill to attend its inauguration and consecration in 1951. By message, he said, “I consider it in spite of all its imperfections as my masterpiece.” He died three years later, leaving a tale to be told about an atheist, a nun and the first building ever to be created entirely by a painter. But why a chapel that stands now as a classic fusion of art and religion? The boffo headline answer: Artist Falls for Nun and Together They Produce Love Child of Eternal Beauty.
Not good enough for Playwright Jesse Kornbluth. His “The Color of Light,” produced by Vantage Theatre, in association with Talent to aMuse, starts as a true story of war. It is 1942 in Nice, France, part of the Vichy Regime of the defeated nation under Nazi occupation. The elderly Matisse lies in his studio thinking he is dying and reduced to cutting out pieces of paper as his last creative act. He is in artistic refuge, along with other artists like Pablo Picasso, who in a cameo appearance, ashamedly confesses he is left writing plays. Unspoken is the stifling effect of a totalitarian state of siege. Through skillful wall projections of World War II film footage, Director Robert Salerno makes us feel it too.
Matisse needs a nurse. She arrives as the beautiful 21 year-old Monique Burgeois, whom the great man immediately tries to engage as part of his aesthetic womanizing, egged on of course by Picasso. She becomes a model for Matisse, but the geezer turned god of the cutouts does not get the girl, for she is engaged to Jesus Christ and enters the Orders, much to the artist’s pique. Before leaving for the cloisters, the nun in waiting and the artist waiting for death trade wit and wisdom from their respective catechisms, hers from God, his from himself. You pick the winner. Matisse is resurrected. Years after the war, they reunite, Matisse brought back to creative life believing by her touch, she enlisting the unrepentant unbeliever in his ultimate creative act for the benefit of the Church. Coincidence or miracle? That is the question.
As Matisse, O. P. Hadlock certainly looks the part and delivers the master’s pithy observations with Gallic gusto. Cicely Keppel’s portrayal of Monique is engagingly saintly, but earthy enough to command the stage and explain Matisse’s obsession. Supporting players Bobbie Helland, James Steinberg, Terence Burke and Jody Catlin are convincing in their portrayals. The production really shows its stuff in the stagecraft of projected images and musical ambience, which envelop the audience in a looming atmosphere of danger and apocalypse until liberated by the color of Matisse’s light and Monique’s devotion, a true to life collaboration of the sacred and the profane.
The fly on the wall in the artist’s studio is a theatrical chestnut. But why do we want to be there live? Gossipy curiosity? Proximity to greatness? Searching for the key to creativity? Perhaps in this theatre, at this time, all limitations aside, we most deeply understand that as audience we cross the line from observer to participant in an ongoing act of creation, perhaps yet to reach its full fruition. That is the color of truth and worth the color of your money.
Your Vagabond Bon Vivant
Philly Joe Swendoza
IMAGES: Dori Salois