On the surface, “Adler & Gibb,” the avant garde Tim Crouch play that made its American premiere this week at the Kirk Douglas Theatre in the Los Angeles area, is about a fictitious dead artist named Janet Adler and her partner, Margaret Gibb. On reflection, “Adler & Gibb” is apropos today with its look at the cult of celebrity, particularly reel life versus real life.
Although unevenly presented, “Adler & Gibb” does offer interesting observations about marketing art and on the authenticity of Hollywood biopics. Louise (well played by Cath Whitefield) is an actress striving to find out more about the artist before starring in a film about her. She wryly predicts, “When they think about Janet Adler, they will think about me” after the movie is released.
Louise’s art dealer husband is bankrolling her efforts in the hope that a film about Adler will raise the value of her art. She cites how the movie about Jean-Michel Basquiat increased interest in (and value of) his work.
As part of her “process” to understand the character, Louis travels to the remote home the artist “retired” to with Gibb, after walking away from her then-hot career. The actress is accompanied by her acting coach, Sam (played by the write and co-director Crouch). He periodically offers pep talks on “What is your objective? What is your obstacle? How are you going to overcome it and get what you want?
When they arrive at the home, the duo is surprised to find Gibb (a dead pan Gina Moxley) still lives there. A tense stand-off and bizarre twists ensue as Gibb makes it clear she does not welcome the intrusion into her private life.
So far, this recap makes the play sound relatively normal. However, it is not presented in a straightforward manner and has quirky elements.
Some of the action (if one could call it that) takes place with actors facing the audience in front of standing microphones. There is a college student (Jillian Pullara), who intermittently approaches the microphone to delivers a presentation on Adler. She provides context and background about the artist and her escape to the woods. Every time she says, “Next slide,” more action ensues between the other characters. However, the role is a strange one (although Pullara is clearly game).
The other character is a nonspeaking role for a child, who keeps handing our and collecting various props from the characters. She also serves as a dog and Adler’s body. (A shared role, Olivia Abedor played the role opening night.) While the child is amusing (and it must be hard keeping a straight face), the audience’s experience is marred by a whispering woman in the back of the stage directing the child. Why place her onstage versus off?
One cannot help but wonder if this play came off as disjointed when it debuted in London in 2014. While not a masterpiece, it still offers an interesting evening of theater. “Adler & Gibb,” with its acerbic look at the art world and reality versus reel life, will be at the Kirk Douglas Theatre in Culver City through Jan. 29.
Written and Edited by Dyanne Weiss
Performance Jan. 18
Center Theatre Group: Adler & Gibb
Aethetica: Interview with Tim Crouch Writer and Director of Royal Court’s Adler & Gibb
Photo of Ayla Moses (one of three actors who share the role of the child), Jillian Pullara, Cath Whitefield and Tim Crouch in “Adler & Gibb” by Craig Schwartz, courtesy of Center Theatre Group.
Photo of Crouch by Craig Schwartz, courtesy of Center Theatre Group.