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Saturday September 23, 2017
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Guest Artist

 

continued

gradually slid from critical and popular success to no success and is reduced to the pedant's cheapest trick. Finding a captive audience in his son, he ceaselessly lectures the nerdish teenager on the nature of art and anything else that comes to mind.

That icky Oedipal dynamic is at the center of Guest Artist too. A washed-up Manhattan playwright named Joseph Harris, who has been commissioned - for some reason - by Steubenville, Ohio, to write a play, shows up without the play. But he holds a young local playwright in thrall for a night, drunkenly pontificating on the function of art in a world that doesn't properly appreciate it.

Played by Grant R. Krause, Harris bears an uncanny physical resemblance to Jeff Daniels as Bernard Berkman, if you can imagine Berkman a few decades more aged and embittered, so perhaps I can be forgiven for belaboring the similarities in the two roles. The press packet that accompanied my ticket described this play as Daniels's "most autobiographical work yet." After trying and failing to see Daniels as a washed-up alcoholic reduced to giving impromptu lectures in small-town bus stations, this is the autobiographical connection I drew: that Daniels couldn't let Berkman - a terrific and complex role - go, so he wrote him a second act.

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