at Turn Around Theatre.
Some productions around town are entertaining, but few could be classified as fine art. Veteran Chicago director June Pyskacek's production of David Hare's The Bay at Nice, however, comes awfully close: this kind of grace, wit, and intelligence are rare. Watching this all-too-brief meditation on art and artifice is like being drawn inescapably into the drama of a painted scene.
Hare's detailed sketch of Valentina Nrovka, a once-elite arts patron in the Soviet Union of 1956 who sees her moral universe crumbling when her daughter leaves her influential husband for a sanitation worker, may be a trifle detached. Still, the contrasts he draws between the ephemerality of human happiness and the seemingly eternal beauty of art are haunting: setting his play in the Leningrad art museum, the Hermitage, Hare presents human beings as unskilled forgers, futilely trying to imitate the sublimity of art.
The four actors in Pyskacek's production, which plays with Harold Pinter's Landscape beginning this week, don't perform their roles so much as paint them, subtly shading speeches and character traits. Particularly well drawn are the over-the-hill lover Linitsky (Jack McLoughlin-Gray) and the intimidating Valentina (Linda Gates). It's pretty astounding that Pyskacek's cast can fully command attention in the noisy, freezing Turn Around Theatre space, but they do. It would be a shame if this production closed and didn't show up somewhere else.