Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Philadelphia

The Credeaux Canvas
Theatre Horizon

Chris Bresky, Susan Giddings and Andrew Kane
The Credeaux Canvas starts as a caper tale about three young people involved in a low-level swindle. It then adds a sexy gimmick to make it more enticing. But Keith Bunin's play is more than the sum of its formulaic parts. It winds up being a fascinating exploration of lofty dreams and the price that is paid for them. Theatre Horizon's production isn't without its bumps, but it works, thanks largely to a well-written script and two excellent lead performances.

Jamie just got cut out of his rich father's will, so he devises a get-rich-quick scheme: He'll have his talented art student roommate, Winston, forge a painting by a deceased master. That master is Jean-Paul Credeaux, a (fictional) French artist noted for his portraits of prostitutes. Jamie even convinces his girlfriend Amelia, a down-on-her-luck singer, to pose nude for Winston's painting. Amelia is understandably nervous at first, but aided by a few glasses of wine (and by Winston's decision to strip as well in order to put her at ease), Amelia opens up about everything that troubles her. What troubles her, however, includes Jamie's attitude toward her and Winston. Artist and model become closer, which causes complications for their relationship—and for their scheme.

Bunin's crime plot isn't extraordinary—I figured out how it would resolve early in act two—but he fills his play with concise, penetrating dialogue and characters who have unexpected depth. And the two lead actors, Andrew Kane (Winston) and Clare O'Malley (Amelia), are more than up to the challenges Bunin gives them. With touching, straightforward performances, they convey the high price that can be paid for setting artistic and romantic ideals and then trying to live up to them.

Theatre Horizon's production, however, doesn't always give Kane and O'Malley the support they need. Matthew Decker's direction seems too hurried, especially during act two; Bunin's script has a lot of choice lines, but we aren't given enough time to enjoy them. And Chris Bresky's performance as Jamie is too hyper and loud, never giving a hint of what supposedly makes Jamie so charming and persuasive. However, Susan Giddings is very enjoyable and droll as an upper-crust matron interested in buying Winston's painting. And there's a realistic set by Maura Roche and sensitive lighting by David Todaro.

The Credeaux Canvas might seem simple on the surface, but it's got a richness in its characterizations and an economy in its language that makes it worth seeing and savoring.

The Credeaux Canvas runs through May 1, 2011, and is presented by Theatre Horizon at the Centre Theater, 208 DeKalb Street, Norristown, Pa. Ticket prices are $27, with discounts available for seniors and students, and may be purchased by calling the box office at 610-283-2230, or online at

The Credeaux Canvas
By Keith Bunin
Directed by Matthew Decker
Scenic Design: Maura Roche
Lighting Design: David Todaro
Sound Design: Larry Fowler
Costume Design: Katherine Fritz
Stage Manager: Jonathon Welsh

Winston ... Andrew Kane
Amelia... Clare O'Malley
Jamie ... Chris Bresky
Tess ... Susan Giddings

Photo: Dan Plehal

-- Tim Dunleavy

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