Sunday, October 1, 2017

Review of The Rembrandt at Steppenwolf Theatre Company

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called The Rembrandt. It was by Jessica Dickey, and it was directed by Hallie Gordon. It was about a man named Henry (Francis Guinan) who worked as a museum guard in the Rembrandt gallery. And he was so entranced by Rembrandt. So one day, when a new recruit, Dodger (Ty Olwin), shows up along with an art student, Madeline (Karen Rodriguez), they all band together and it leads to a plan to touch the Rembrandt. Then the story switches from the present day to back to 1653, the time of Rembrandt. Rembrandt (Guinan) is going through some tough times and he has to get a painting of a philosopher out to his patron. Then Homer (John Mahoney) shows up on stage and starts talking about life and toilets. The last scene shows Henry going home to his sick husband, Simon (Mahoney), and his nurse Martin (Gabriel Ruiz). It is about dedication, art, and human connection. I think this is a beautiful show. It has such a great story, such great actors, and is so moving. I was crying by the end.

Community is a very big theme in this show. Every person has a team. Rembrandt is on a team for creating art. He is the artist but there are also people behind the scenes. Rembrandt's partner Henny (Rodriguez) is there to support him and get him food, since he is drunk and painting. His son Titus (Olwin), has gotten him paints and is talking to him and helping him splatter the canvas. Henry also has a team at the museum. It starts out just being him and Jonny (Ruiz). They both work at the museum and are both working to make sure the art is secure. Then as Dodger and Madeline come in, the purpose of the team starts to shift away from Jonny and his goal of protecting the works of art and not touching them. Simon has a team which is his nurse Martin and his partner Henry. They are a team to make the end of Simon's life a good one. The nurse is there by obligation, but Henry and Simon have a really strong bond and the last scene is really beautiful. Perfect segue into talking about my favorite scene!

My favorite scene was the last scene with Henry and Simon. They are basically joking around and having a good time, but some really deep things come up, like they talk about how Henry feels like he disappointed Simon and wasn't a good enough partner. They also reminisce about when they first met and how everyone seemed against them. The scene shows that they are very in love, even though they have been together for so long. They hadn't been a perfect couple; they'd been through some hard times. But they persisted. It was very realistic in a really powerful way. It was very moving because it seems like a couple that could actually exist: not perfect but persisting. I think my favorite funny moment in this scene was when they were talking about pistachio pudding and Simon didn't want any of the chocolate that they had; he only wanted pistachio. Henry was talking about how he would get it tomorrow. And Simon was complaining about his chocolate pudding. Then Henry reveals [spoiler alert!] that he's had the pistachio pudding all along. (*gasps*) Simon then jokes about how what if he'd died right then, and he never got his pistachio pudding, even though Henry had it all along. It was hilarious, but it was also kind of bittersweet. Simon was joking about the inevitability of death, but they still found it funny because it was such a prominent part of their lives right now. It was so moving because it was so genuine and adorable. And you just want them to be together forever, but you know that can't happen.

There were a lot of funny/charming moments in this show. One of my favorites was when Dodger and Madeline were having an argument and then suddenly Henry bursts in and says something along the lines of "You guys should definitely go on a a date," and that was funny because that was the last thing they wanted right then. But then they did end up making plans to go on a date, and I actually think they would be pretty compatible. There is also some physical comedy when they are all about to touch the painting and Jonny, the guard with the gun, pulls out his gun and threatened to shoot them. It is really overboard, but it is really hilarious because you are pretty sure he won't do it. Dodger is the one who starts the idea to touch the painting, and he just starts telling people to touch it, which I don't think is the best work etiquette. Homer probably wasn't a really funny guy in real life, but in this play he was pretty funny. And he talked about everything from toilets to poetry. Homer tells us how it is weird that people use the toilet in a pot, and you realize that poetry and toilets are not that far apart. Both are things that disguise everyday life as something more sophisticated. I've never gone so deep into talking about the similarities between toilets and poetry. And I don't think I ever will again.

People who would like this show are people who like touching paintings, poetry toilets, and pistachio pudding. I think people should definitely definitely go see this show. I think it is such a beautiful story. It is funny, has so many beautiful messages, and the acting is great.

Photos: Michael Brosilow

1 comment:

linda9760 said...

Spot on review. My favorite scene was the last. Two great actors - priceless!