Eric Joshua Davis and Al Saks.
Photo courtesy Theatre Gemini
Stuart Fail puts plenty on the table in Consider the Lillies, including the artistic process, codependent relationships, and the debilitating effects of mental illness. By the end, the good of the play gets muddled amid all of this in Theatre Gemini's production, now running at the Minneapolis Theatre Garage.
The work centers on two men: painter Paul Harold (Al Saks) and his agent David Phillips (Eric Joshua Davis). Paul has fallen on hard creative and financial times, living in Paris and dreaming of New York. David has left his New York home behind to be as much Paul's caretaker as his agent, visiting his big client every day to try to keep him on track.
Paul puts the temper in temperamental artist, flying off the handle at any provocation, drinking heavily, and flying between intense lows and temporary highs on a moment's notice.
Paul's mental illness is clear from the play's early stages, but as the story progresses, and especially after the action moves from Paris to New York City, David has his own struggles as well. And he doesn't have someone behind him for support.
Fail's writing is at its best during his realistic exploration of David's depression. While the extroverted artist carries every emotion on his sleeve, the agent keeps it mainly inside while his life collapses around him. The two actors also do solid work from beginning to end, crafting characters that are often intriguing, no matter where the plot takes them.
There is a lot of muddle here, however. Sometimes stray plot points come and go without a second thought (a burglary at a Paris gallery is mentioned and then quickly forgotten), while the form of Paul's artistic genius is often hard to fathom.
That's due, in part, to the lack of secondary characters. Most of the play goes by with just the two men onstage. Three additional characters get a scene, each near the end, which adds a little bit to the play's world but doesn't completely fill in the missing parts.
Multimedia artist Zack has potential, but Chris DeVaan's stiff and unengaged performance leaves his dialogue just sitting dead onstage, while offering Saks nothing with which to work. Jessica Grams and Nora O'Brien do better, but still don't have the same investment as the two leads, giving the whole show with an uneven feel, of potential not fulfilled.
IF YOU GO:
Consider the Lillies
Through September 1
Minneapolis Theatre Garage
711 W. Franklin Ave., Minneapolis
Visit online for tickets and more information.