Archive for January, 2018

PostHeaderIcon A Boy’s Pursuit of Love & Identity

The bulletin board outside a Hyde Park church featured this challenging quote by renowned author, Elie Wiesel: “Is Silence the Answer? It Never Was.” That truth took me back to the play I had seen a few nights earlier, Timeline Theatre’s Chicago premiere of “Boy” by talented playwright, Anna Ziegler.

Anna Ziegler, Playwright

Anna Ziegler, Playwright

I sat through the opening-night performance transfixed by the compelling dramatization of a highly-relevant issue for our times as well as the superb acting of the Timeline ensemble, notably Theo Germaine who plays the lead character, Adam Turner.

The play tells a true and disturbing tale of gender identity, something Americans have become sensitized to in recent years with the case of Bruce (now Caitlin) Jenner and the politically tawdry bathroom choice squabble.

Last January, National Geographic declared America to be in the midst of a “gender revolution”. I recently read that The New York Times had used the term, “transgender”, a total of 1,169 times in 2017 or an average of 100 times each month. In 2016, Oregon became the first state to legally recognize a third gender option of intersexuality. Personally, in the past 18 months, I have been getting acquainted with several acronyms related to different gender roles: Cis, Trans and Non-Binary. At the play’s opening, I added Genderqueer and TGNC, for trans-gender non-conforming identity, to my vocabulary along with the pronoun they/them to refer to an intersex person.

Jenny (Emily Marso) Adam (Theo Germaine)

Jenny (Emily Marso) Adam (Theo Germaine)

“Boy” transfers this biological phenomenon to the stage. Adam Turner’s early life was marked by tragedy. Due to a botched circumcision, he suffered a mutilation. A well-meaning doctor convinced the parents to raise him as a girl and their identical twin as a boy. When the play opens, Adam begins to develop an attraction to Jenny, as finely portrayed by Emily Marso.  As the relationship develops, Adam is increasingly torn between his feelings of desire and his fear of revealing the secret of his gender. The play revolves around Adam’s anguish over his secret and which way to turn.

It’s a testament to the actors’ craft and Damon Kiely‘s sure-handed direction that we audience members share in Adam’s agonizing dilemma and Jenny’s frustration and incomprehension. “Boy” also features a revealing soundscape crafted by Karli Blalock that, if you listen closely, comments very appropriately on Adam’s psychological turmoil. Some of the song snippets played before and during the performance include “Void in My Heart”, “I Want to Know What Love Is”, “Playing with Girls” and “In My Room”. I left the theater feeling uplifted by Adam’s brave struggle and having learned more about this once-hidden topic, now coming out of the shadows.

Don’t be scared away by the subject matter from going to Timeline. You won’t be hectored or lectured. Instead, what’s on view is a gripping portrayal by an accomplished playwright who dramatizes the wrenching humanity behind today’s sensational headlines and the ignorant rants of hateful yahoos.

“Boy” runs through March 18th at Timeline, 615 West Wellington Ave. For tickets and information, visit












PostHeaderIcon 200 Years of Master Drawings

For more than two centuries, from the early 19th through the 20th century postwar era, anyone calling themselves an “Artist” had to be versed in drawing and printmaking. When the capital of the modern art world moved from Paris to New York following World War II, drawing dropped below painting and the more muscular, grand gestures of Abstract Expressionism.

Jacques-Louis David, Vieillard et Jeune Femme

Jacques-Louis David, Vieillard et Jeune Femme

Drawing and prints were once an essential part of an artist’s toolkit. Artists turned to drawing to fashion preparatory studies before putting paint to canvas or as finished compositions in their own right. Drawing was the artists’ common thread and a practice they regularly employed in their search for new, innovative ideas.

It is uncommon, in current times, to find museums mounting drawing exhibitions (unless the artists are named Leonardo or Michelangelo). Even the Art Institute, which houses a world-class prints and drawings collection, has been reluctant, in recent memory, to showcase this prized archive with a full-scale exhibition.

Which is why it’s refreshing and commendable that the Milwaukee Art Museum has mounted a revelatory exhibit of 150 works (that runs through January 28, 2018) from the holdings of two noted Chicago collectors. The show arrives in Milwaukee after a successful run at the Ashmolean Museum at the University of Oxford, England.

It traces the evolutionary development of modernism in France. In the early 19th Century, the practice of art and who might be considered an artist were rigidly controlled by the French Academy which emphasized slavish devotion to classical themes drawn mainly from ancient history and mythology.

Artists increasingly chafed at such restrictions and sought the freedom to find their own styles. This movement began in the 1830s and 1840s by such pre-Impressionist artists as Millet, Pissarro and Manet. These precursors gave way in 1874 to the Impressionists led by Monet, Cezanne and Renoir to be followed by Van Gogh, Gauguin and the Post-Impressionists.

Exhibition curator, Britany Salsbury, has mounted a very intelligent exhibition aided by the quality of the drawings at her disposal. She has arranged the works in a chronological survey that guides the viewer through 11 of the museum’s galleries with informative wall texts that begin with “Academy and Avant-Garde” and moving onward to “Challenging Artistic Traditions” followed several galleries beyond with “Moving Into the Modern World” and closing with “Wild Beasts and Cubists”.

Pablo Picasso, Female Nude

Pablo Picasso, Female Nude

The collection is fully capable of supporting such a wide-ranging show. It is comprehensive in scope with no historical or artistic gaps in the coverage extending from such lesser-known figures as Louis-Leopold Boilly and Theodore Chasseriau to more textbook figures as Delacroix, Honore Daumier, Mary Cassatt, Edgar Degas and through modern art giants like Manet, Matisse, Monet, Gauguin and Picasso.

Yet the show’s purpose is not to focus on the art stars but rather the great technique and versatility of so many artists. I found another of the exhibition’s pleasures in discovering, and reveling many times, at stunning work by lesser-known figures such as Raoul Dufy (“Sainte Adresse Seen Through the Trees”), Albert Gleizes (“The City and The River”), Jean Metzinger (“Landscape”) and Jacques Villon (“L’Equilibriste”—The Tightrope Walker).

Only a few days remain to catch this richly satisfying showing of a less familiar genre, once an indispensable part of an artist’s vocabulary. While paint is the fuel that propels the contemporary art world, this exhibition says that we are foolishly overlooking an equally rich heritage of pen and ink. Milwaukee Art Museum.



Tom Mullaney is the New Art Examiner’s Senior Editor.