P1050755E
Leslie “Vanessa” AnnRenee (left) as Jen and Julya Bondarenko Demidova as Clarice-PhotosCredit: Joe Orrego
Theatre
Review
 
Two Lights at Elite's South Stage
Elite Theatre Company has brought the world premier of Brett Busang’s Two Lights to its South Stage theatre, which is their annex for showing new work, and more experimental productions. Set in the 1950s it is a tight little drama loosely based on the life of Edward Hopper, the great American painter, and his wife, who was also a painter and modeled for her husband.
 
The play opens with the couple, All and Jen, at their ocean getaway. Al is a hugely successful realist painter, much like Hopper, and his wife, Jen, is also a painter, but her paintings end up in stored away in a closet. It is quickly established that she modeled for her husband and helped him get started in the beginning, but as an artist, she remains obscure while her husband shows in major museums.
 
After a quick introduction, a knock on the door announces the arrival of their young neighbor, Clarise, and this sets the drama in motion. Without giving too much away, let it be said that the women bond, Jen wakes up to how her life has been diminished by her relationship to such a famous artist and the jousting begins.
 
The author, Brett Busang, is a painter himself, an American Realist of a somewhat Hopperesque sensibility, as well as a playwright and novelist, so he is writing from a significant wealth of personal understanding and connection to the world his characters inhabit.
 
If anything, the play is a bit too predictable and a good deal of dramatic interaction is avoided rather than exploited. John, Clarise’s husband, for instance, visits when the women are out, walks in, has a brief conversation with Al that dances around everything, including a possible dislike to each other, then is escorted out to the dunes. That’s it.
 
Like everything else in this production, it needs more work, a more appropriate title for the play at this point might be Beached; but that is in an interesting sort of way, the beauty and charm of the South Stage: you never quite know what you’re going to get and it is likely to be in a revealing state of development. It’s actually a great place to learn a lot about theatre, a great place for students young and old alike. Top professional productions get very good at hiding all the ins and outs that can go wrong in theatre, but the South Stage tends to bring them out into the light. It’s a lot like the old Summer Stock theatres that used to dot the nation where two generations of American thespians learned their licks and developed deeper skills.
 
One thing that makes the South Stage theatre work well is the sincerity and effort of the folks involved, especially the actors. This is fairly decent script and the acting at times is extremely good, but at all points it is sincere and strongly felt and in keeping with the script. Jake Mailey plays Al, the successful artist, Leslie AnnRenee plays Jenn, the frustrated wife, while Julya Bondarenko Demidova plays Clarise, the neighbor, and her husband, Clayton McLannock plays her husband, John. Mailey and AnnRennee act with a certain assurance and ability that reveal some serious experience while Demidova carries a considerable amount of the script ably and with a certain charm.
 
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Two Lights by Brett Busang
Directed by Brandy Jones
Starring Julya Bondarenko Demidova, Jake Mailey, Leslie “Vanessa" Annrenee, Clayton McLannock
Playing through April 30 at Elite Theatre Company
2731 S. Victoria Ave.,Oxnard.
For tickets and more information, call 483-5118 or visit www.elitetheatre.org.
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image003Born in Seattle, U.S.A. in 1952. Attended Whitman College, majoring in mathematics; the University of Washington in mathematics, art history and studio art; University of California, Berkeley. Studied art history with Rainer Crone, painting with Jacob Lawrence and Michael Spafford, sumi-e with George Tsutakawa, Chinese brush with Hsai Chen. Wrote on art for Vanguard, ArtExpress, High Performance, ArtWeek, Bellevue Journal-American, Seattle Voice. Seattle Arts Commission Special Task Force for media, and Special Task Force for educational Institutions in the late 70s. Taught art history, color theory, life painting, and design at Seattle Central Community College for 5 years before leaving Seattle in 1984. Current studio is in Ventura, California, north of Los Angeles.

Website: erikreel.com/

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