Timeless Art Takes On A New Meaning in WEPG’s “Inventing Van Gogh”

Under the direction of Steve Callahan, this inventive Steven Dietz script takes wings and the charming cast makes “Inventing Van Gogh” close to a masterpiece for West End Players Guild. A bit wordy at times trying to make the point of art vs. myth, this play still has enough strength to keep us entertained as well as intrigued.

Young artist Patrick Stone gets a visit from an art historian who tells him the story of the myth of Van Gogh’s missing final self portrait. Although sure it exists, the man hatches a plot to convince this talented young artist to “create” the final portrait as an impetus to draw the real piece out of hiding. We then start to time travel as teacher, historian and girlfriend all take on dual roles as characters from the present and those from the late 1800’s as the young artist meets Van Gogh and goes on an almost hallucinogenic journey as he struggles with his craft and that of the French master.

Jake Ferree takes on the amazing persona of Van Gogh and transforms us to that era as he convinces us he really is the French impressionist. It’s a marvelous performance. The always steady Reginald Pierre is also totally convincing as the young man struggling with ethical and creative issues as he tries to capture the self portrait of this often mad but brilliant artist.

Tom Kopp is perfectly over the top as Bouchard who convinces the young man and as Van Gogh’s artistic counterpart, Gauguin in the flashback scenes. Ron Haglof adds charm as both Patrick’s teacher and Van Gogh’s mentor while Nellie Ognacevic shines as both Patrick’s and Van Gogh’s lover and model. It’s a solid cast that brings this off center tale to life.

Ken Clark’s simple but effective set design fits in perfectly while the Renee Sevier-Monsey light design works despite leaving a few dead spots in key scenes. Chuck Lavazzi’s sound design is great and the costumes of Tracey Ann Newcomb are on the mark as well. The Van Gogh reproductions created by Marjorie Williamson are stunning and really fill the stage with a ghostly atmosphere during the final scenes.

“Inventing Van Gogh” offers up a trippy little piece of theatre that gives us mystery, myth and a look into artists and their temperament. It’s a trip well worth taking. It plays through October 14th at West End Players Guild.

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