By Timberlake Wertenbaker.
Cast: 4m., 5w. (play a variety of roles.) "This coruscating, hard-edged and compassionate play does not teach a lesson; it shows you people who have learned the wrong ones. The writing is complex, thoughtful, athletic and assured. And Wertenbaker releases a flow of sizzling, sardonic humor that I did not know she had." So writes the critic for London's Sunday Times. The play begins as an art auctioneer does a verbal machine gun patter auctioning a "totally flat, authentically white," evidently unpainted canvas to the highest bidder. Attending this bizarre auction is Biddy Andreas, an ordinary good person who is married to a tremendously wealthy Greek tycoon who desperately wants to be upper-crust English. He desperately wants his wife to become "interesting" as it may advance his social status. In Biddy's earnest attempt to please her husband, she discovers the work of an angry, neglected English landscape artist who has been abandoned in the rush toward abstract chic. Attracted to the paintings, she is also intensely aware of the painter, and above all of the untrendy notion that a passion for art can transform the spirit. Against a background of glib auctioneers, valueless dealers, pacesetting Americans, and a media woman for whom art is an extension of style, Biddy turns herself into a richer human being. Robbed of her husband by his body's rejection of a kidney transplant, Biddy finally sits for her painter, who finds himself valued again. "Wertenbaker writes fluently and funnily," writes the Times critic, "with a fearless capacity to expand an apparently limited canvas into a portrait of the times." Area staging.