Regional Reviews: Washington, D.C.
Dickey shifts from one time and place to another in each scene, beginning with the early morning thoughts of art museum guard Henry (Mitchell Hébert). He speaks at length about how Rembrandt worked completely in white, red, ochre, and blackcolors picked up in the scenic designand about his sense that the paintings communicate something beyond what the usual museum visitors can comprehend. The later scenes dramatize his exact points, which seems obvious and rather didactic.
Henry's compatriots at the museum are Jonny (Tim Getman), an armed security guard whose awareness of culture boils down to watching the Kardashians on television; Dodger (Josh Sticklin), Henry's trainee, a spiky-haired street artist; and Madeline (Kathryn Tkel), a young woman using art classes to help her work her way through grief. For reasons he can't explain, Henry decides to break the cardinal rule of art preservation and touch Rembrandt's "Aristotle with a Bust of Homer."
That act of transgressing, or transcending, boundaries leads to a domestic scene in the Amsterdam home of Rembrandt (Hébert) as he works on that very painting, then farther back to a monologue, or perhaps an oration, by Homer (Craig Wallace, who later plays Hébert's dying husband). The historic scenes are deliberately anachronistic with contemporary language and timing; Dickey might have meant this as a way to bridge the differences between eras, but it's more jarring than soothing.
Director Sharon Ott shows a light touch as she keeps the 90-minute play from dragging and never overplays either the pathos or the comedy. The actors demonstrate commitment to their roles, especially Hébert's gentleness as he keeps his emotions under control and Wallace's outspokenness in both his roles.