Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: St. Louis

OnSite Theatre Company

Also see Richard's The Parade

Andy Neiman and Sarah Cannon
People go to art exhibitions for all kinds of reasons, many of which have nothing to do with art. Exhibit by Joe Hanrahan, the latest offering from the OnSite Theatre Company, explores some of those reasons and the complications which can ensue. It makes ingenious use of a nontraditional performance space and pokes fun (sometimes hilariously) at character types which will be familiar to anyone with even a nodding acquaintance of the art world.

I used to have a girlfriend who would say that she wasn't much interested in football, but she was very interested in football players. It's the same with the characters in Exhibit: they hang out on the fringes of the art world because they're interested in artists, not art, and in at least one case because doing so reinforces their carefully cultivated self-image as one who has the sensitivity of an artist, if not the talent.

Margau Baue Steinau does most of the heavy lifting as Art Lover, a woman of a certain age who wears a cape, believes she has an artistic temperament, and assumes that everyone who dresses in black is an artist. But she means no harm, and her many affectations (including the belief that mentioning Kafka immediately elevates the conversation) can be excused with as charming personal foibles. Artist Type (Andy Neiman) attends exhibits as a way to meet girls, and wouldn't you know that Other Artist Type (Sarah Cannon) is on the rebound from her latest failed relationship with an artist. Do you suppose these two attractive young people can find each other? They've already made a good start by cultivating the hipster look, including the requisite all-black attire.

OnSite specializes in site-specific theatre, and this play was written for and is performed in the new gallery and artists' workspace at Craft Alliance Grand Center, where the current show is "Locusts and Honey" by Canadian artist Jennifer Angus. "Locusts and Honey" is a grand celebration of insects: the walls are covered with geometric patterns formed by the bodies of insects, mostly cicadas, which a gallery attendant assured me were entirely real, and the artist's notes inform us that "nearly 70% of the food we consume is the direct result of insect pollination." The exhibit also includes smaller display cases of insects, variously shaped bottles of honey, and a display case of wax objects.

The content of the gallery show is worked into the play: the two Artist Types discuss their attraction and repulsion to insects, which Angus also notes as a defining theme of her exhibit, and insects find their way into several other conversations as well.

There's none of the traditional separation between actor and audience in Exhibit: instead of a formal stage, the actors move around the gallery (and among the audience members) as if they were there to see the exhibit. When the action moves downstairs, the audience follows, and when the actors returns to the gallery, the audience follows them right back up the stairs.

Exhibit runs about 50 minutes and feels more like an appetizer than a full theatrical meal. Perhaps with this in mind, OnSite has scheduled performances for 7 pm and 9 pm, so you can see the early performance and still catch an 8:00 show at the Fox, the Kranzberg Center or the Black Rep, or have a leisurely pre-show dinner and see the 9:00 show. Exhibit will run at the Craft Alliance Grand Center in the Big Brothers Big Sisters Building, 501 N. Grand Blvd in St. Louis City through April 11. Ticket information is available from 314-686-0062 or from the company web site

Art Lover: Margeau Baue Steinau
Artist Type: Andy Neiman
Other Artist Type: Sarah Cannon

Author: Joe Hanrahan
Director: Annamaria Pileggi
Assistant Director: Justin Rincker
Stage Manager: Joy Ryan
Artistic Director: Ann Marie Mohr
Managing Director: Kristin Edler

-- Sarah Boslaugh

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