In Inventing Van Gogh, by Steven Dietz, Patrick Stone (Lee Sellars) is suffering from "artist's block." Unable to paint since the mysterious death of his mentor and and former teacher, Dr. Jonas Miller (Larry John Meyers), Stone is 'persuaded' by art authenticator Rene Bouchard (Martin Giles) to produce what would be passed off as the legendary final self-portrait of Vincent Van Gogh. Because of Dr. Miller's obsession with Van Gogh and particularly, his life's work of trying to find the elusive final self-portrait, Stone finds himself forced to reconcile his relationship with Miller and Miller's daughter Hallie (Janelle Baker), discover the reasons for his dislike of the work of Van Gogh, and resolve the conflicts within his own life's work by this project he has reluctantly taken on. Assisting Stone in these tasks is Van Gogh himself (Kelly Boulware), who joins Stone in his studio, along with artist Paul Gauguin (Giles), Dr. Paul Gachet (art aficionado as well as friend, physician, and portrait subject of Van Gogh - played by Meyers) and Gauchet's daughter Marguerite (Baker).
Dietz brings a multi-layered piece to the stage. Well researched, the play offers many references for those with a knowledge of art history, and yet the relationship conflicts and Stone's dilemmas are interesting and accessible for those with only a light knowledge of art. All is brought together superbly by a solid cast. Sellars is intense as the conflicted artist. Boulware is mysterious yet colorful as Van Gogh and the supporting players offer variety in their dual roles, showing a depth of talent for all.
Director Neel Keller sets a perfect pace for the piece, and there is nary a dull moment as revelations are made and intentions revealed through the interrelationships of all of the characters, past and present. The well designed set by Anne Mundell is functional and versatile.
"Every portrait is a self-portrait," and the portrait in question in Inventing Van Gogh sets off a journey of self-discovery that is fascinating to watch.
Inventing Van Gogh continues at the City Theater through October 20. For performance and ticket information, call 412-431-CITY or visit www.citytheatrecompany.org.