Bakersfield Mist by Stephen Sachs

Oct 27, 28, 30, Nov 3, 4, 6, 10, and 11AT 7:30PM

Ten years ago the great violinist Joshua Bell, with his Stradivarius, set up as a busker in a Washington, D.C. Metro station. Bell made $32.17 from 27 people. Even though Bell was playing some of Bach's most challenging works for violin, and even though he's among the most famous and lauded living violinists, most people just kept their heads down and boarded their trains. They assumed he was an ordinary violinist.

He was anything but ordinary. But the point of that Metro experiment was to note that when it comes to art, context is everything. Most people, it seemed to prove, either can't or won't recognize internationally acclaimed artistic brilliance without the right surroundings.

The issue — as intersecting with class, education and aesthetic training — is at the core of "Bakersfield Mist," a two-character play by Los Angeles-based playwright Stephen Sachs. The ninety minute affair,  is the October/November offering for Old Town Actor’s Studio, starring the formidable duo of Angeline Underwood and Richard Baker.

A woman named Maude Gutman, who lives in a trailer park, thinks she has in her possession a painting by the great Jackson Pollock. It was purchased at a thrift store. But she needs verification to cash in her chips. So she comes up with the money to hire an expert verifier, Lionel Percy, a veteran of the arts establishment and a self-described connoisseur. Percy, who doesn't generally hang around trailer parks, shows up to look at the painting and render his verdict as to whether Maude has a Pollock or a fake.

Things proceed from there. Along with the central question of whether or not the painting is, in fact, a Pollock, there is much debate as to who is qualified to establish its bona fides and whether great art can, in fact, be fully appreciated if it is found in a thrift store and crudely exhibited on a kitchen counter in a trailer park. The Bell incident even gets a brief mention.

"Bakersfield Mist" is a fun piece of writing. Much of the comedy comes from those standard stranger-in-a-strange land themes of the erudite Percy trying to argue for taste and expertise with an emotional, scrappy sensualist whose needs and interests are the opposite of his own.  The issues behind "Bakersfield Mist," are intended to spark discussion.

The Los Angeles Times called “Bakersfield Mist”  “. . . exhilirating in the extreme   . . . A wry two-hander that handles highbrow artistic issues while zinging in plenty of uproarious one-liners. A perfect marriage of emotion and ideas that is rare indeed.” While The New York Times called it a “clever play is a battle of wits.”

Get your tickets now by calling 478-6886, and a volunteer will return your call as soon as possible.  Doors open at 7:00p.m.  Tickets are $12.00.