Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: San Francisco

Mapplethorpe: The Opening
An Arresting Piece of Work

Also see Richard's reviews of Annie and Private Lives

Brian Quirk
The New Conservatory Theatre Center is currently presenting the controversial one man show Mapplethorpe: the Opening in the intimate theatre of the center. Brian Quirk wrote this 85-minute, fast-paced piece, and he plays over 21 characters as well. The performance is a tour de force of acting skills.

Robert Mapplethorpe (1946-1989) was the American photographer famous for his large-scale, highly stylized black and white portraits of male nudes. He also photographed the most famous persons in the arts and theatre. His sadomasochistic portraits in Cincinnati resulted in the prosecution of the Cincinnati Contemporary Center for the Arts on charges of "pandering obscenity". The organization was subsequently acquitted of the charge. Mapplethorpe's work changed photography art forever.

Mapplethorpe: The Opening is not suitable for children under 18. Brian Quirk's words are almost pornographic in nature when he describes disturbing sex acts that he and his friends had during his lifetime. It would make the Marquis de Sade blush. Brian works in a small space with black walls and a stark white floor. There are no photographs of the artist's works adorning the walls. The actor comes out in an old t-shirt and Levi's, barefooted, and goes immediately into his act. One is reminded of the avant garde artists that used to be seen in the basements of the Village during the hippie area.

Quirk's delivery is striking and sharply performed as he quickly goes from character to character. There are times when you may not be sure which character he is portraying. He takes on the characters of Robert's mother when she admits that there was darkness in the photographer's soul when he was young. He plays famous people, like Andy Warhol, Patti Smith and Diana Vreeland. He plays some of models that Robert used. All of the characters are attending the opening of Mapplethorpe's work and tell stories of the artist's past. He strikes engrossing poses that are in Mapplethorpe's famous works of art. Director John Stiz has put together a very fast, fascinating insight into this controversial person.

Mapplethorpe: The Opening plays at the New Conservatory Theatre Center through September 11. Tickets can be obtained by call the NCTC box office at 415-861-8972 or online at

Photo provided by New Conservatory Theatre Center

Cheers - and be sure to Check the lineup of great shows this season in the San Francisco area

- Richard Connema

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