Friday, May 21, 2010


Posted by Mondschein

“Restoration” at New York Theatre Workshop, May 18, 2010

(photo: Joan Marcus)

Claudia Shear’s latest play is a funny and thoughtful story of an art conservator who restores more than just the appearance of the objects on which she works.  Returning to NYTW, where her last success “Dirty Blonde” began its journey to a 2000-2001 Broadway run, Ms. Shear’s new protagonist is quite the polar opposite from Mae West. 

Restoration explores the politics of art, beauty, love, fidelity and redemption.  Giulia (Ms. Shear) moved from Italy to Brooklyn with her family at the age of 8.  Now writhing through middle age, she remains single because, as she herself tells it, “I’m weird, aggressive and successful.”  As the play begins, she has lost her position in the art world following the insults over a peer’s restoration technique that resulted in a lawsuit against her.  Her life-long mentor/father-figure Professor (Alan Mandell), who abandoned her during the trial has arranged for her to restore Michelangelo’s David for its 500th anniversary.  Museum security guard Max (Jonathan Cake) becomes her unlikely friend.  Hot and handsome with an archetypal married man’s Italian roving eye, he quotes poetry and classical literature as he flirts with all visitors skirted.  Museum board member Daphne (Tina Benko) blond, beautiful and intimidating, challenges Giulia personally and professionally, testing her knowledge, skill and self-confidence.  Museum director Marciante (Natalia Nogulich) is generally supportive, but circumspect.

Ms. Shear’s Giulia is a plain, frumpy fireplug, focused only on and in love with the statue.  As she and Max banter about life and art, he continually corrects her use of “him” to “it” when referring to the statue.  Her Giulia turns out to be more than meets the eye.  Truly, she is as Max describes here, “…so gentle with the statue, so abrasive with everyone else.”

Mr. Cake’s Max, a living David himself, despite a bad leg which is explained in a late plot twist, oozes sensuality and life.  It’s too bad his shirt stayed on the entire performance.  His accent spends a good bit of time near his birthplace in Britain, but it’s not a terrible distraction.

Director Christopher Ashley has used an even hand to let the story come through without force or contrivance, pulling fully realized performances from his cast.  Scott Pask’s set opens in layers, like old varnish on a painting revealing the rotunda gallery.  The abstract display of the statue literally pushes the action up the surrounding scaffolding as tension builds and the events unfold.

Be sure to check out the discount offer for tickets here.

Restoration runs through June 13.  Don’t miss it.

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