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Saturday, October 28, 2017

Review: Trailer Park Treasure? Kim Zimmer & Carl Wallnau Terrific in ‘Bakersfield Mist’

22770697_10156398087679041_3138977220597447664_oSeveral years ago we reviewed a charming play ‘Lost Boy Found in Wholefoods’ at Premiere Stages. It was directed by John Pietrowski and starred Kim Zimmer, a four-time Daytime Emmy Award Winner for Outstanding Lead Actress. We wrote that Kim, “a New Jersey treasure,” was giving the equivalent of an acting master class. We urged drama students to rush to see Kim Zimmer’s masterful performance. Now turn the clock forward to last night at the Bickford Theatre at the Morris Museum where Kim Zimmer and Carl Wallnau are both giving remarkable, master- class level performances in Stephen Sachs’ comedy/drama ‘Bakersfield Mist.’ The play, beautifully directed by the Bickford’s Producing Artistic Director Eric Hafen, is inspired by true events that raise questions about what makes art and people truly authentic.

The plot is simple: A 50ish woman who lives alone in a California trailer park purchases a Jackson Pollack style painting for all of three dollars at a thrift shop. When a local art teacher informs her that he believes it is a real Jackson Pollack…. worth millions, she contracts for a world-class art expert Lionel Percy (Carl Wallnau) to travel from New York to her modest home (totally furnished with thrift shop specials) to hopefully authenticate her painting as a long-lost Pollock masterpiece.

Kim Zimmer is an unemployed bartender desperate to have the painting declared genuine. For the better part of 85 minutes, she shrewdly spars with Percy about art and life, Surprisingly, this woman, who Percy clearly looks down on, proves a match for him. Wallnau is spot-on as Percy. He has the perfect look, style and manner for the part. This is a bit of type casting by director Hafen since Wallnau is the head of the Fine Arts Department at Centenary University. A highpoint is his transformation from the snooty self-assured art expert who dismisses the painting after a mere glance to the depressing realization that he has lost a battle of wits with Maude.

Sachs raises a thought-provoking question…Do we recognize great art only in the right surroundings? How can this painting be a masterpiece in a trailer park? 

Kim Zimmer is brilliant as the free-swearing Maude. She nails this sad woman who has led a dreary, unhappy life, improved only by frequent contact with alcohol. Her one remaining passion is for the painting to be a Pollack. (Hint: Not for the reason you would think). Her fiery word battles with Percy reveal she is more than ‘street smart.’

lionel-maude-thrift-shop

The big question whether Percy will verify the painting or declare it a fake can only be answered by visit to the Bickford.

Bakersfield Mist is a fascinating thought-proving comedy/drama that soars due to the excellence of Kim Zimmer and Carl Wallnau. This Eric Hafen production once again confirms that for superior theater it is not necessary to cross the Hudson. The talent from actor to prop person is equal to any stage.

Producing Artistic Director Eric Hafen when asked about Bakersfield Mist, said, “When I read the play, I knew that it was perfect for the Bickford Theatre because of our affiliation with the Morris Museum. Stephen Sachs tackles the large questions on creativity and the value of art with wit and humor.”

You have until November 5 to see Bakersfield Mist. The play is 85 minutes long with no intermission. It contains Adult Language

Director Hafen’s creative team includes: Roy Pancirov scenic designer; Roman Klima lighting and sound; Christina Lockerby costume designer; Dani Pietrowski prop designer; A.C. Weary fight director; Madeleine Blossom assistant stage manager; Leanne Long-Hulin production stage manager; and Lewis Perlmutter technical director.

Reviewed by Rick Busciglio    October 27, 2017

carl and kimTickets for Bakersfield Mist are $45 for the General Public; $40 for Seniors; $38 for Museum

Members; and $20 for Students (18 and under or with valid college ID). Group rates are available.

There is a $3 service charge per ticket. Tickets may be purchased online at morrismuseum.org, by phone at (973) 971-3706, or in person at

the Bickford Theatre Box Office. The Morris Museum’s Bickford Theatre is located at 6 Normandy

Heights Road in Morristown, NJ, and offers free parking and full accessibility. Box office hours for

phone sales are Monday through Friday, 10:00 am to 5:00 pm. Walk-up hours are Tuesday through

Friday, 11:00 am to 5:00 pm.

Performances

Thursday, November 2, 7:30 PM

Thursday, November 2, 2:00 PM

Friday, November 3, 8:00 PM

Saturday, October 28, and November 4, 8:00 PM

Sunday, October 29, and November 5, 2:00 PM

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