Press and Reviews
By Arlene McKanic/Greenwich Village Gazette
"Galleria Degli Angeli" at The Independent Theater, 52 West 8th Street
ell, it’s about time we have a story of a female artist abusing a male model,’ the writer thought guiltily half way through William Kernen’s Galleria
Degli Angeli at the Independent Theater. But if a thing looks too good to be true it usually is, and the play changes from a tale of an artist’s self-
absorption and arrogance into a torturous examination of art, lust, madness, and exploitation.
The play’s beginning makes one immediately nervous of Valentina, the solitary painter who longs to paint her masterpiece. The audience enters
the tiny auditorium to find her already prone on the floor in the attitude of the crucified Christ. What follows is a prolonged and silent ritual that is
two parts Catholic and one part pagan, and yet when Valentina finally picks up her sketch book her expression passes from pleasure and
concentration to sorrow and frustration as the thing she wants simply doesn’t come.
When the pleasantly bland Daniel wanders into her gallery she at first rejects him, but when he returns he becomes the object of her obsession.
She gives him a candelabra, takes him to her workspace and shows him the angels she’s painted all over the ceiling. Then she takes it into her
head to paint his hands; he has hands like David, she says, and we assume she means Michelangelo’s David.
At first hesitant, Daniel agrees, strips naked and poses for her, thinking it will be a nice afternoon diversion and he can go home unscathed. He’s
wrong, for Valentina is that sort of vampire-artist who would literally give her blood (and his) to achieve transcendence. She wants to possess
him and for him to possess her, even to the point of annihilation. “You will be my music, and I will play you,” she insists.
When he balks at having to assume an uncomfortable position for hours and hours she offers sensual pleasure, the threat of suicide and then
the promise of eternal life through her painting of his hands. She’s even had her landlady lock them into what seems to be a windowless room;
there’s no possibility of escape, or so we think. More, Daniel didn’t return to this lioness’ den by accident, it seems, even if he doesn’t discover
the reasons why till very late in the game.
Jill Avalon’s Valentina is so crazy that one admires her. How many people have that sort of passion, that sort of commitment, that sort of utter
belief in their own rightness? That she’s vicious, parasitic and a bit of a sociopath doesn’t count, ultimately. Her belief earns her the pass we give
to great artists with miserable personalities, even though we’re not allowed to see any of her work. Even her belief in the God she constantly
invokes and dedicates her art to is extraordinary in this day and age. The writer could only think that Anna Magnani would have killed in a role like
this back in the day.
Andre Brabic’s Daniel starts off as an American tourist type whose initially monotonic voice speaks of both innocence and a frozen center. As he’
s stripped of his defenses he reveals a howling pain and loneliness, and in the end, a beastliness that matches Valentina’s. Kernen directs the
play with a tightly choreographed ferocity that sometimes reminded the writer of Last Tango In Paris -- she hesitates to write this because she
detested the movie and liked this play, but she couldn’t help but compare the claustrophobic, fight-to-the-death sexual hatred of both works.
Kernen was aided and abetted by Sonia Pasqual’s moody light design, Obadiah Savage’s spartan set, which reminded the writer of both a
gallery and a stripped down place of worship, and Rochelle Joseph’s costume design; Valentina begins the play in a long black dress that calls
to mind witch, nun and woman in perpetual mourning. Galleria Degli Angeli is the first full length production by the Gallery of Angels Theater
company and is at the Independent Theater, 52 West 8th Street.
you may contact Arlene at: amckanic@aol.com
Galleria degli Angeli
Sports Illustrated