The Impressionists is about the origins of the art world's Impressionistic Movement. In the 1860-1870s a handful of artists dared to break all the rules of convention, and changed the way that the world would look at art. This group of innovators began in Paris with artists Edgar Degas, Edouard Manet, Berthe Morisot, Camille Pissarro, Claude Monet and Pierre-Auguste Renoir. They chose to see and paint their world with a freedom that was considered unstructured by the contemporary art world. They pushed the envelope by painting not with their minds merely on classical form, but with their eyes focused on color and light. Alongside popular themes of the time, such as paintings of religious figures or royalty done in subdued tones, theirs were viewed as outrageous. They painted everyday life, tranquil nudes, and brilliant landscapes. Spurned by the esteemed Paris Salon, they held their own independent showings. Of the fifty critics that attended their first showing, forty-eight panned their work. In the satirical newspaper "Le Charivari," critic Louis Leroy unwittingly provided the name for this new movement in his unfavorable review. He took the name from one of the paintings at the exhibit by Claude Monet's entitled "Impression, Sunrise." Thus, The Impressionists were born, and their energy and vision unstoppably transformed the art world.
The Impressionists delves into the personal lives and relationships of the artists at the heart of this movement. The cast of able actors perform well as an ensemble in a play where no one character takes central focus. It is, therefore, not a criticism but a compliment that no one actor stands out. The set by Tim Bennett features suspended framed portraits whose canvases change throughout the show with the assistance of a video projection system. This enables the audience to view the artwork as the artists themselves move and speak flanked by their own paintings. One of the canvases spills its contents from its frame across the stage in a garden path of colors. It spreads like a pool at the edge of the stage, up and over the lip.
The show is well lit by John D. Hall, and beautifully costumed by Erin Amico. The incidental music is poorly chosen, however, and surprisingly, the opportunity to enhance the piece with the rich music of this time period was missed.
McKeever's play is filled with lovely visions and some skillful dialogue, but is missing the passion that is the heart of the matter. As undeniably fascinating as these characters are historically, their time on stage seems but a pleasant visit with those in the audience. Our connection is mental rather than emotional. These artists risked all they had on what they believed in, and though we are shown or told this, we never feel part of it.
Production dates of The Impressionists at the Caldwell Theatre Company are April 9 - May 21, 2006. For tickets to this and other shows, you may contact the Caldwell at 561-241-7432 or on line at: www.caldwelltheatre.com.
The Caldwell Theatre Company is a professional theatre company hiring local and non-local Equity and non-Equity actors. They are located at 7873 N. Federal Highway, Boca Raton, FL 33487-1640 in the Levitz Plaza. Look for the theatres' proposed relocation to their new space in the fall of 2006.
* Denotes a member of Actor's Equity Association, the union of professional actors and stage managers in the United States.