By Jana J. Monji
Dennis McIntyre stripped away all romantic notions about tortured artists in "Modigliani," a darkly humorous portrait of the Italian painter, which is given a wonderfully atmospheric revival by the Buffalo Nights Theatre Company at the Lost Studio.
McIntyre's Modigliani (Michael Goorjian) is better at breaking through expensive glass windows than breaking into the Parisian art world, which, in the fall of 1916, was dominated by "that bastard is a factory" Picasso. Commiserating with his fellow painters, color-obsessed Chaim Soutine (Maury Sterling) and clownish Maurice Utrillo (Ron Garcia), Modigliani anguishes over his artistic vision and poverty. Yet during this crucial three-day period, Modigliani disastrously crushes his opportunities--botching an important sale to an influential art dealer (Ron Marasco) and alienating his girlfriend/self-appointed muse Beatrice Hastings (Renée Ridgeley).
McIntyre illustrates a life of comic desperation that hints at death's approach (four years down the road) and the drowning of creativity in alcohol. Director Marasco perfectly balances laughable foibles of these artists with bleak tones of impending failure. Jason Sheppard's set, which includes an archway and a black brick wall illuminated by a single stained-glass window, along with Jonathan T. Hagans' lighting design, also displays a nice mix of style with foreboding.
Goorjian is charmingly dissolute - an impassioned, reckless child in tattered rags ruled by a twitchy addiction to whiskey. Sterling's laconic straight man and Garcia's witless fool are also variations of Peter Pan complexes.
"Modigliani," Lost Studio, 130 S. La Brea Ave., Hollywood. Fridays-Sundays, 8 p.m. Ends Dec. 1. $12.50. (213) 660-8587. Running time: 2 hours, 35 minutes.
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