On The Spot Theatre Company presents the World Premiere of HOW TO MAKE A RAINBOW.
Who was Joseph Cornell? This question popped into my head at lights up. And a thorough answer eludes me despite seeing the play, reading the director’s notes and googling the guy. He was a self taught American artist. He produced collage styled art in boxes and films. He lived with his mom and his cerebral palsy brother. Those basics things I understand. The other representations of the artist’s life I still don’t get.
Playwright and director Michael Brayndick states in his notes that Joseph Cornell has been a passion of his for twenty years. This play is definitely a personal tribute from an admirer. Brayndick makes the entire show snippets about Joseph’s real life and fantasy life. Brayndick illustrates how Joseph stayed in his childhood home to take care of his widowed mother and disabled brother. Intermittently, Joseph converses with dead people: a poet, a tightwalker, a princess, a ballerina. Brayndick’s script both intrigues and confuses. For a Joseph Cornell aficionado, Brayndick’s lyrical storytelling may be a clever artistic resemblance of the artist himself. For a novice like myself, the jumbled memories are an odd amalgamation of uncertainty. At one point, Joseph is at the doctor’s office. I don’t know if he is blind or delusional. And I’m not sure if he’s sitting next to Emily Dickinson or his mother. I just don’t get it.
Brayndick writes from an insider’s perspective. It’s like being at a party where everybody knows each other and shortcuts the conversations. I’m listening intently but I’m just not catching on. And the host isn’t helpful in introducing the subject matter. Within the fragmented storytelling, Erik Martin (Robert) and Matthew Stroh (Joseph) stood out for their commitment to character. Martin, in particular, impressively goes from deformed to erect with physical and vocal distinction. Stroh plays the artist with a mixture of childlike wonder and absentminded professor. The others get lost in the ongoing orchestration of blurring activity.
I do feel like I met Joseph Cornell and had a peek into his psyche. It’s just I didn’t get a true understanding of the artist behind the man. HOW TO MAKE A RAINBOW is Brayndick’s private exhibition of Cornell’s work. He even casts two Brayndicks, relatives I imagine, to make his ode to Joseph Cornell truly a personal affair.
Running Time: Two hours and ten minutes includes an intermission
Greenhouse Theatre Center, 2257 N. Lincoln
Written and directed by Michael Brayndick
Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays at 7:30pm
Sundays at 2:30pm
Thru August 18th
Buy Tickets at www.greenhousetheater.org