by Amy Lee Pearsall · August 19, 2015
Greg Wenz, Elise Randall, Andrew Shapiro | Michael Stock
When musing upon the art scene of the Beat Generation – specifically that of the abstract expressionists – we tend to think of color, expectations tested, bourbon and jazz -soaked nights, cigarette smoke-filled rooms, passion, and a fair amount of self-destruction, just for good measure. It is almost inevitable that we muse upon the paint drizzles and splatters of Jackson Pollock, and the bold, unforgiving lines of his equally-brilliant artist wife, Lee Krasner. There are few stories quite as enthralling as one featuring two creative, star-crossed lovers, and the world premiere of writer/director Michael Stock’s No Chaos: Pollock’s Wife at this year’s FringeNYC attempts to deliver a love story fraught with creative fusion and fission, but it doesn’t quite generate the necessary heat.
No Chaos aims to put the focus here on Krasner, making her equal parts lead and narrator, but it is very much the story of her relationship with Pollack. Elise Randall, Brooklyn accent and all, does a fine job breathing life into Krasner, and her decisive choices make an effective foil for Andrew Shapiro’s Jackson Pollock, who is very much a caged animal of a self-medicating manic-depressive with a paint brush. The two actors do a fine job exploring the creative synergy of this pair, but the combustible chemistry of the lovers in early courtship feels less believable here. Maddy Stark and Greg Wenz take on the task of playing additional characters in the story, most notably Peggy Guggenheim (Stark) and Willem de Kooning (Wenz).
There was, regrettably, about ten minutes at the top of the second act where I thought Stark was playing Peggy Guggenheim when she was, in fact, playing another female character, and this led to some confusion on my part. While stronger character choices might aid Stark in this instance, a costume designer for this production would be a huge asset. An extra accessory or two would assist in the differentiation between roles, and Randall would have benefitted from the choice of a different shirt. The performer’s tattoos are tasteful, but are still large enough to take a seasoned audience member out of the 1940’s and 50’s.
Stock’s script dials a bit into the poetry that one might expect from a counter-culture artistic romance, but his muse in Krasner almost feels like an underwritten part. I walked out of the theatre feeling as though I knew no more about Krasner the person than I did when I walked in. It is understandable, if unfortunate, as Krasner played professional second fiddle to Pollack until his death (and even then was often mistakenly credited as being a male artist). I personally wished that there might have been a little more chaos in No Chaos: Pollack’s Wife. The tension bubbles just under the surface, as it might under a thick coat of paint, but a breakthrough here and there could lend some exquisite texture to the overall piece.