Innovative twist on old artists’ tale surprises, engages, delights
Though we might think we’ve heard the story a thousand times before, “The Virgin With 10,000 Arrows,” written by University of Texas graduate Jason Tremblay and showing at Austin Playhouse, gives a gorgeous and invigorating new take on the tale of an artist who sells his soul for fame and money.
Asking, “Is there a worse crime than faking it?” the young painter, Andres Marca Relli (Travis Emery) opts out of the cycle of consumption by repossessing his paintings and jumping off Golden Gate Bridge. Combining visual art, live music and beautifully physical theater, the play answers Andres’ question; everything here is alive and real — even inspiration (eerily personified by Carole Metellus) — except the main character.
Spanning the four seconds between Andres’ leap from the railing and the moment he hits the water, the two-hour play is a series of flashbacks narrated by an amicable and sympathetic security guard (Don Stewart).
“Virgin” illustrates issues of collaboration and copyright, ownership and integrity, as the cast paints a giant canvas that the audience is invited to take home at the end of each show.
Even those close to Andres let him down, but Kim Adams brings a lovely subtlety and range of expression to her role as Jaina, Andres’ assistant and love interest.
Pea (Noel Gaulin) plies the artist with a pharmaceutical cornucopia of temptation, and Gaulin’s beat-boxing entrances punctuate his scenes like the ticking of a time bomb.
Emily Everidge as the avaricious gallery owner and Eric Porter as the unscrupulous art critic dutifully fulfill their roles as one-dimensional villains.
Under the direction of Francisco Rodriguez, the creative team produces a stunning tableau, and lighting designer Ray Oppenheimer’s chimerical play of shadows effectively situates us in the dream world of Andres’ death.
Though clearly a master of stage business, Rodriguez would have done well to focus more energy on the dialogue. Often, moments of mute intensity are undermined by the exaggerated or forced articulations that follow.
Travis Emery enlivens his role with heartrending physi- cality, particularly in the seconds before Andres jumps and various striking moments when he wields his paints, but at times, Emery’s speeches fall flat. The intermission comes as a surprise, and Emery struggles to project the oral sincerity for which he strives.
Ultimately, however, the play is gorgeous, innovative and engaging. The musical accompaniment, composed and performed by Joey Reyes, sets the tone — simultaneously soothing and supernatural, and absolutely worth witnessing. ‘The Virgin With 10,000 Arrows’ continues 8 p.m. ThursdaysSundays, with additional performances 2 p.m. Sundays through Aug. 1st in the Larry L. King Theater at Austin Playhouse. $12 to $15. Penn Field, 3601 S. Congress Ave.