Review: Bakersfield Mist is not to be missed

Review

milt thomas

What do you think would happen in a two-person play between a sophisticated, male New York art critic and a trailer trash-talking (expletives not deleted), out-of-work, middle-aged female bartender? Well the accusations fly in this verbal jousting match that is more of a comedic culture war than a discussion of art.

Is it a Jackson Pollock or she just a Pollyanna?

The story goes like this: Maude Gutman (played convincingly over the top by Laurie Dawn) buys a painting for three bucks at a thrift store and becomes convinced that it is a lost masterpiece by Jackson Pollock. She somehow convinces world-class art expert Lionel Percy (played to snooty perfection by Steve Brady) visit her rural Bakersfield trailer park in his chauffeured limousine to determine if this painting is the real thing.

If this story line sounds familiar, it is based on a true 1992 story that Playright Stephen Sachs made into Bakersfield Mist in 2012. That is where the comedy part comes in.

The setup finds Maude preparing for his visit with a shot of Jack Daniels and Lionel arriving in a flurry of condescending putdowns. But the fireworks really begin after he makes his assessment of the work. Then the gloves are off, and in the process we learn neither of them are who we thought they were.

No, this is not a murder mystery (although it includes several knockdowns) or true crime caper (as well as a hint of doubt). It is more a study of human nature, how we perceive each other without knowing what lies beneath those perceptions.

Laurie Dawn and Steve Brady have both appeared at Riverside before. They are truly fun to watch as they navigate seamlessly through humorous, sometimes sad, often emotional dialogue with put-downs and push-backs at seemingly every turn of a phrase. They truly earned the standing ovation they received at play’s end.

The set was designed with the usual Riverside brilliance as a worn out house trailer with décor by Goodwill. It takes professionals to create something so…cheap looking.

Bakersfield Mist is a real gem of a show and you don’t have to be jeweler to appreciate it. But you should hurry because it only runs until February 19. Enjoy it on Riverside Theatre’s Waxlax Stage, an intimate setting where you and 100 or less of your friends are up close and personal with the actors.

Tickets are $65 and can be purchased by calling the Box Office at 772-231-6990 or online at www.riversidetheatre.com. It should be noted as mentioned above, that this show contains adult language and situations, kind of like being at home.

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