Megan Claire in This Is Not A Pipe Dream.
Photo courtesy of The Alley Theater.
This Is Not A Pipe Dream

By Barry Kornhauser

Directed by Dan Welch

A review by Keith Waits

Entire contents are copyright © 2012 Keith Waits. All rights reserved.

Over at The Speed Museum, The Alley Theater has mounted a neat little production of Barry Kornhauser’s This Is Not A Pipe Dream. It is a show intended for clever children of a certain age, but it offers pleasures with sufficient appeal for adults.

The subject is the early life of Belgian surrealist Rene Magritte, a scenario colorfully illustrating the connection with childhood experience and the unfettered adult imagination that fueled the once controversial art movement.  Details of Magritte’s youth are sketchily explored, but the playwright seems less interested in traditional biography and more concerned with capturing some sense of how one comes to be an artist.

The script makes unexpectedly logical connections between surrealism and slapstick comedy, which director Dan Welch’s staging exploits for gentle comedic effect. The four actors – dressed in dark suits and bowler hats meant to call to mind “The Son of Man” – bound on to the stage like Keystone Kops and proceed through a dizzying run of brief scenes that run the gamut from knockabout farce to tender and introspective human moments. Chase Wolfe, George Bailey and Deanna Gillespie ably portray multiple characters as well as young Rene and his parents, while Megan Claire is the Interlocutor, a lively narrator in a ringmaster’s costume.

They are joined by a slightly imperious onstage “Stage Manager” embodied by Faith Hoover, and the five interact as an ensemble with good efficiency and just enough depth of feeling among the silliness to connect to the audience. There was also nice use of simple stage effects that mimic a magician’s tricks, as well as a set design that features some beautiful Magritte-like images painted by Bethan Kannapel. The whole thing could be folded up easily enough for a traveling show except for the inclusion of some slides featuring the great painters works that, in the Speed Museum auditorium, are amply projected.

Lighting in the auditorium is not ideal for such a production, but, besides the above-average projections, the choice of location lends obvious and welcome opportunities to enlarge the context of the show. The program highlights three surrealist works now on display in the Speed Galleries, and admission to This Is Not A Pipe Dreamincludes entry to the Museum, making this a unique and added value production.

It is a rare treat to have a piece of material that embraces the visual arts in a theatrical context and does so with gentle whimsy and intelligence. It is a brief run with performances scheduled at unusual times designed to accommodate families and school groups.

This Is Not A Pipe Dream

May 18, 7PM; May 19, 11AM & 1:30PM; May 20, 1PM & 3:30PM; June 1, 7PM; June 2, 11AM & 1:30PM, June 3, 1PM & 3:30PM

Tickets include FREE ADMISSION to the Speed Art Museum

Adults $15, Children 12 & Under $10 (Children’s tickets may be purchased by clicking “Select Discount Policy” in the ticketing window.)

The Alley Theater for Young Audiences

Performing at The Speed Museum

2035 South Third Street

Louisville, KY