Aristophanes' The Bohemians
nytheatre.com review by Richard Hinojosa
February 24, 2010
Theatre and art have sold out to corporate interests and what we are left with is a mediocre representation of a form that used to move us to tears or inspire us. Second Best Bed Productions uses this theme in their "translation" of Aristophanes' The Bohemians.
The play is set in the modern-day East Village. The main character, Mediocrates, is a young artist from a rich family who has moved to New York to seek his fame and fortune in the art world. He has a sarcastic man servant named Xanthias who tries to keep him somewhat grounded in reality. He has a group of "bohemian" hipster artist friends that he runs around with and that also serve as the play's chorus. One day his father, Hippocrates, comes to visit him and threatens to take away his allowance now that he's living the free life of an artist. That same night, his father goes out on the town with his artist friends and comes home the next morning completely transformed. Instead of a business suit he now sports an outfit he bought second hand on St. Mark's Place. His attitude toward art and artists has done a 180 and he now wants to drop out of his world and fall into the art world. He's rich enough to buy his way into whatever art gallery he chooses but will his art have artistic merit or will it just appear to because it hangs in a popular gallery?
Playwright Gabe Miner opens the show with a brief prologue that describes the origin of the script and tells us a little about the show. His dialogue is very straightforward. He does not bother with subtleties or hidden meanings. The dialogue simply moves the story forward and highlights his thoughts on the state of art in modern society. There are some exchanges that are quite funny as well. My favorite part of his script is when he breaks away from the story and has the leader of the chorus talk directly (and quite frankly) to the audience about art selling out to the highest bidder and about how the theatre can still reach us if we let it.
The cast of players does a fine job with a fun script. There are some players that stand out. Xanthias played by Graciany Miranda is perfectly smarmy and right on with his sarcastic interjections. Whit Leyenberger is the leader of the chorus and really shines in this role. He also serves as the show's director and he has does a commendable job at that. The show has a very steady pace and the players are all in synch with his vision of young artists living for art. There are some paintings in the play created by Shelly Luan (also in the chorus) and Dana Shimko that are worth mentioning because in the world of the play the paintings are supposed to be examples of failure but they are actually quite nice. I would love to have the one that depicts a skunk sitting on the toilet reading a newspaper, for example. I know just exactly where I'd hang that.