City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

Considering Georgia O'Keefe Review

By Bill Dunlop - Posted on 12 August 2009

Show details
Allison Hertzel
Running time: 
Allison Hertzel (writer), Raphael Crystal (composer)
Allison Hertzel (Georgis O'Keefe)

Georgia O'Keefe is always worth considering; in spite of attempts by commercial print-makers to domesticate her work, O'Keefe's floral studies remain rampantly and unambiguously erotic art. Regrettably, perhaps, these continue to be what most of us conjure in our minds when O'Keefe's name is mentioned. When pure commerce enters, it's both the breadth and compass of an artist's output which gets lost.

Allison Hertzel bravely sets out to redress this imbalance in ‘Considering Georgia O'Keefe. Taking a biographical stance, her portrayal of O'Keefe takes us through O'Keefe's early years, her enduring but also endured marriage to Alfred Stieglitz toward her later years and perhaps most interesting final flourishes of creativity.

The one person play always presents a number of challenges, particularly perhaps when writer and performer are the same person, and, with a character whose life is well-recorded, in shoe-horning much diligent research into allotted performance spans.

Hertzel does her best to encompass as much as possible of O'Keefe's long and fully-lived life, but there are points where her portrayal elides into the mode of lecture, the mask slips and the audience is left to be told, but not to see, what is happening inside O'Keefe's head. Which is a pity, for there was clearly a great deal going on in there that Hertzel doesn't yet seem to have found a way to bring out.

This reviewer has puzzled over several years as to why contemporary U. S. plays tend not to travel very well, at least not to the Edinburgh Fringe. Possibly expectations of what theatre can or should do differ, perhaps the seemingly normative pressures of U. S. society mean there's less room for experiment, or inducement to try other techniques. Maybe the two societies are so divergent a genuinely common theatrical language and understanding becomes impossible.

Hertzel clearly works hard and is a real enthusiast for the work of Georgia O'Keefe, but her efforts aren't sufficiently grounded in a theatrical reality to fully take her audience with her on her journey.

Times: 10-11 August 2009, 6.30pm

Copyright Bill Dunlop 2009

First published on 2009