Blessed Unrest presents the New York premiere of this controversial drama about marginalized young artists of color who are willing to risk everything to make their voices heard and prove that another paradigm is possible. More…
A team of artists who were never greeted inside the hallowed halls of the Art Institute of Chicago, decide to introduce themselves. They paint a fifty-foot graffiti piece on the towering wall of the New Modern Wing, asking us to reconsider what art is and where it belongs while bringing dire consequences on themselves.
“Compelling, thought-provoking, sometimes funny, and often sweet. The writing is subtle and smart; the direction is creative and smooth; and the acting is excellent...Necessary and important...Fascinating and exciting. And their painting of the actual piece is beautifully depicted...I also love shows that give us complex, real people dealing with complex, real lives--and that do all of the above really, really well. Simply put, this is a must-see.” Full Review
"Goodwin and Coval’s poetic and dynamic script offers a fast-paced, thrilling story; it is a crash course on street art; and it not only details the unfolding of the events as well as their aftermath, but also creates an ensemble of complex characters...There isn’t a dull moment in the production, with director Jessica Burr applying Blessed Unrest’s kinesthetic style to this electrifying play. The cast also gives a breathtaking performance that makes the production a transformative experience." Full Review
"Graffiti might be illegal but in the world of this play it somehow feels like a crime of passion, a revolutionary act, a middle finger to institutions peddling exclusion and privilege...Burr has created an action-packed, attention grabbing, chase of a play where we feel like we are in an ongoing, POV shot...The six-hander cast expertly creates the different worlds with detailed physical theater techniques and the assistance of some innovative scenic design elements." Full Review
“Compelling new play...You will certainly gain new perspectives from the debate on what art is and who decides who gets to make art...This play is well-written and fast-paced. The excellent ensemble under Jessica Burr’s direction examine many viewpoints about art and culture which often enough are not heard in the mainstream media...Opatrny’s scenery, Zelideth’s costumes and Crowe’s lighting keep things very real...Authenticity of storytelling." Full Review
"A lot weight to place on the slender shoulders of a play with an 85-minute running time. I am happy to report that play and production are more than up to the Herculean task...What Goodwin and Coval convey with a crystal clear clarity is how this particular act of graffiti was about reclaiming a space, about sharing a work of art with the people, all the people. It is truly revolutionary...'This Is Modern Art' fully engages in how space in this country is racialized." Full Review
"Dramaturgically, the play seems conservative: It takes a thorny issue and sandblasts it smooth. There is some fun to be had...Blessed Unrest's production is full of movement and energy, and the actors, particularly Tolliver, treat every moment with trembling intensity. But although a furor erupted in 2015 after Chicago critics protested the play’s pro-vandalism stance, Goodwin and Coval’s drama itself is incredibly mild, with thin characterizations and a haphazard argument." Full Review
“Because of fumes or budget or expediency, we never actually see the art being made on the stage. Instead we have a didactic script, in which the characters turn directly to the audience to lecture on street-art history and vocabulary...The dialogue is awkward, and the occasional lame joke doesn’t help...Instead of worrying so much about when spray paint becomes art, the show could have worried more about when spoken words become theater.” Full Review
"Burr’s directorial style doesn’t land on any concrete choices, instead serving as a smorgasbord of ideas that leads to stilted performances...It’s hard to care about characters who don’t feel, sound, or move in a real way. In a play about breaking out, breaking through and breaking rules, Burr’s form clashes distastefully with Goodwin and Coval’s content. The story at the core of the play’s plot is one of danger and adventure, of moral compromises...And yet, I felt completely underwhelmed." Full Review
See it if you like well told stories acted beautifully; you have an interest in graffiti as art; you are interested in stories of urban youth
Don't see it if you can't be open minded about the place graffiti holds in the art world; you aren't interested in stories of urban youth.
Also If you care about diversity in theater this is a must see.
See it if You like well-acted plays about real events, people and situations that you know next to nothing about.
Don't see it if You want an obvious ending/moral to a story or don't like small, intimate theaters with imaginative staging and sets.
See it if You look for stories not usually told. You are interested in the history and politics of street art.
Don't see it if You prefer a slightly more polished production (though I recommend this anyway for the purposes of learning and exposure.)
See it if You are drawn to an undramatic retelling of real events, didactically promoting graffiti as an art form with a side order of love story.
Don't see it if You would be unhappy to see this inexplicably substituting puzzle solving for the actual art of graffiti writing, within a leaden story.
See it if You’re into plays that take a deep dive into the how and why of art and the drive of an artist on the outside looking in.
Don't see it if You’re into conventional narrative fare. You consider graffiti to be vandalism and not art.
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