Long the province of conservative Christians, the idea of the Rapture — an event in which part of the world's population is taken away prior to judgment day — is a fertile one for any storyteller. The "what if" possibilities — who would be chosen and what would it mean for those still on Earth? — are endless.
As a group of artists, Savage Umbrella uses the conceit to hit close to home: What if we woke up one morning and all of the great artists were gone? And what if not every artist was taken? What would it mean for those creators, and for the people who engage closely with the arts?
The play centers on a family of creators: abstract painter Evelyn and performer-in-training Lucy (there is a musician mother, Cat, who is mentioned but not seen). For Lucy, the event is absolutely traumatic, as her performing partner, Sloane, disappears in mid-rehearsal.
Evelyn, who professes an absolute dedication to the work, isn't going to let the disappearance of 10 percent of the world's population stop her. At least, that's what she says. She hasn't been able to paint any of her signature works — abstract creations in shades of gray — since the event. Meanwhile, a Nancy Grace-like cable-TV host hounds her at every turn, delighting in the tumbling value of Evelyn's paintings and wondering if the remaining artist should have to pay the money back to the purchasers. Even the ghost of Thomas Kinkade — yes the "Painter of Light" guy — haunts her. In this story, Kinkade was Evelyn's assistant before breaking away from the gray for the full life and lucrative payday of realistic, calming work.
All of these pieces give playwright and director Tanner Curl a chance to poke at the artistic process, examining it from several vantage points. That can make for a slog at the theater, but the script has enough light moments to carry it through, while the company does solid work throughout — particularly Mary Cutler as Evelyn and Carl Schoenborn as Kinkade. Cutler's character is cold and withdrawn, which means she has to use little moments — the way she nervously prepares brushes that haven't been used in weeks, for example — to let us inside the character for most of the show. Schoenborn, in contrast, gets to play everything on the surface, but there is a caring heart hiding beneath the boorishness that comes out from time to time.
Adelin Phelps's Lucy isn't as successful, as her character sometimes feels like a bunch of artsy quirks instead of a fully fledged person. She is paired with Russ Dugger as Eddie, Evelyn's young assistant, who nicely underplays his character's sense of loss and also gives us some clues about what this Rapture may actually have been about.
While there is plenty to do with the expectations of artists and their patrons, the show could benefit from some probing a little closer to home. We live in a metropolis flooded with performers, musicians, writers, painters, and other creators, and the central event in Rapture would have a tremendous impact around here. What would happen to the Walker? Would the Guthrie continue as if nothing had happened? And what would be the fate of the various small experimental theaters that present their craft in spaces around the Twin Cities?