Regional Reviews: Washington, D.C.
Gibbons sets up the big questions of prejudice in an insular space: the Morris Foundation, a jewel-like private art gallery in the suburbs of a large northeastern city. The founder, Alfred Morris (Lawrence Redmond), is dead, but he left operating instructions for the foundation in his will, to be followed in perpetuity.
The primary conflict arises between Sterling North (Craig Wallace), the new head of the foundation, and longtime curator Paul Barrow (Jeff Allin). The Morris collection is justly famous for its Impressionist and Post-Impressionist canvases, but when Sterling finds several important pieces of African art in storage, he announces his plans to add them to the works on displayin defiance of the collector's will, which calls for no changes to the exhibition.
It isn't just that Sterling is African-American and Paul is white, or that Sterling comes from the corporate sector while Paul is a lifelong art historian. The question becomes about the role of progress and changes in society: what purpose is served by keeping noteworthy artworks out of sight? Morris had somewhat progressive views of race relations for his era, but he made his last additions to the collection in 1958.
A secondary conflict is between men and women. Sterling's young assistant, Kanika Weaver (Jessica Frances Dukes), jokes about working among numerous "pictures of naked white women," and newspaper reporter Gillian Crane (Susan Lynskey) seems primarily interested in stirring up trouble to help her own career.
Director Timothy Douglas maintains the calm of Gibbons' script, emphasizing the overall sense of politeness and keeping the characters' eruptions of temper self-contained. The actors do well on Tony Cisek's set, which sometimes becomes claustrophobic through the cleverness of Dan Covey's lighting design.
Round House Theatre