Getting a new work of theater produced isn’t an easy task. It’s almost like the old conundrum about finding a job fresh out of college; people won’t hire you without experience, but without someone taking a risk on you to give you the experience, you’re unable to get the experience you need to be hired.
It’s the same for new theater: people don’t want to take the risk on producing it, as it might not bring in audiences. Audience members often don’t want to take the risk of watching it, as it’s new and untested and therefore alien to them. But without us trying new theater, how will new playwrights (and new art) get discovered?
Luckily, groups such as the Adirondack Theatre Festival are willing — and eager — to take a chance on new work. Its current production, “Filming O’Keeffe,” is a new play from page to stage: It was commissioned by the festival with support from its Founders’ Fund for New Work, workshopped and read at the festival and presented for the first time in its entirety at the festival.
Max (Noah Galvin), a high-school junior — assisted by his schoolmate Lily (Jessica Howell) and his mother (Anne-Marie Cusson) — is making a film for a school project about the artists Georgia O’Keeffe and Alfred Stieglitz, who lived on the property where he and his mother currently reside. His estranged grandfather arrives, and Max’s mother is forced to face the past that she’s been hiding from Max his whole life. The play is based on actual Lake George history — Stieglitz and O’Keeffe did live and create works in the area.
It’s a small, perfect jewel of a production. Running at barely over an hour and 20 minutes, every minute has to count, and it absolutely does. The big ideas that playwright Eric Lane packs into such a seemingly small show are beautiful and thought-provoking: who we really are versus who others see us as; the true value of art; how looking at the past through the lens of memory can change what really happened; how two people that are perfect for each other can actually destroy each other; what love really means, and how that changes as we age; the different ways we carry pain.
The four actors make for an excellent team. Galvin’s Max and Howell’s Lily are completely believable teenagers — full of the angst and the drama, but also the beautiful innocence and bewilderment that comes with having one foot in childhood and one in adulthood.
Cusson, as Max’s mother Melissa, is excellent at both the fierce mama-bear protectiveness of her child and revealing the very broken heart she’s been carrying around for 15 years. Martin LaPlatney, as Max’s grandfather, carries off both the anger and the hurt of a father who has lost his son, and the man who would do anything to get his life back on track, just a little.
WHERE: Adirondack Theatre Festival, Charles R. Wood Theater, 207 Glen Street, Glens Falls
WHEN: Through July 20
HOW MUCH: $25-$40
MORE INFO: 874-0800,