Sublime intimacy

Magazine Review

Mark Bretz – LadueNews, December 9, 2015

Story: Theater artist Tim Pace welcomes us into his world as he reminisces about the people who helped shape him not only as a performer but also embodied much of his personal life. From the neighborhood where he grew up in St. Louis to the bon vivant life style of Paris to the crackling energy of New York City and the sunny climes of Los Angeles, Tim recalls turning points in his own life through the prism of his closest friends and lovers.

Highlights: Max & Louie Productions has enlisted the talents of artists from several different disciplines for its first creation of an original production. Playwright Ken Page, composer Henry Palkes, visual artist Marjorie Williamson, dancer Alfredo Solivan and choreographer David Marchant have collaborated on an aesthetically pleasing presentation that showcases the beauty of art in diverse expressions.

Other Info: Page scripted this semi-autobiographical, two-act study that takes an audience down the myriad avenues that have shaped the St. Louis-born artist’s career as well as his personal life. More an extended reflection than a dramatic story, Sublime Intimacy is short on action and chooses instead to lay out Page’s memories through the “fog and mist” he references throughout its two hours.

Page, who also directs this world premiere effort, says in the show’s program notes that the title is a phrase that “was coined during a late-night phone conversation with an old and dear friend as we tried to define what that place is that exists beyond ordinary relationships or sexual discovery.”

The internationally renowned actor, who has performed in numerous productions on Broadway, at The Muny and throughout the country in his illustrious career, further states that “I wanted the play to be like a ballet, filled with unashamed flights of poetry, fantasy and romance to be told in a simple intimate setting.” And so it is, as Page focuses on the effects of a specific dancer — a “poet of the body” — on five different characters.

A cast comprised of Bethany Barr, J. Samuel Davis, John Flack, Michael Cassidy Flynn and Reginald Pierre introduces the audience to the mesmerizing effect that The Dancer had on Tim (Davis), artist Gene Donovan (Flynn), aspiring actress Katharine Reilly (Barr) and two of Pace’s closest friends, Bill Ross (Pierre) and Don Taylor (Flack).

There also are two Jesuit priests named Father Joe and Father Jim played by Flack and Pierre, respectively, a pair of inquisitive and intellectual teachers from the Society of Jesus who helped mold young Pace in his early college years, while Solivan’s dancer takes the names of Steve, Devin, Michael and Patrick as ‘poets of the body’ who inspired these various artists with inspiration as well as love.

Sublime Intimacy is beautiful from a technical perspective. Palkes’ original music is haunting and wistful, blending smoothly with a number of pieces by Erik Satie selected to complement the work on stage. Similarly, Patrick Huber’s lighting design softly bathes the set in understated illumination that contributes to the effect of a stroll down memory lane.

Williamson’s paintings are meticulously detailed and sweeping in their scope, while costume designer Teresa Doggett nails Page’s signature look with long scarves and silk shirts adorning Davis as Page’s alter ego, Pace. Dunsi Dai’s scenic design serves as simple backdrop — with carefully revealed additions that accentuate the characters’ emotions — for scenes in Gene’s studio or an LA sound stage or even a hospital ward. Robin Weatherall’s sound design takes pop tunes from the times referenced to match people with places.

Solivan’s movements are graceful and elegant as he lithely recreates the moves choreographed by Marchant, Kameron Saunders and Solivan himself, as well as times interacting with the other characters.

While the acting performances are fine, Sublime Intimacy primarily has the look and feel of a finely designed piece of porcelain. It’s very pretty and delicate but never really seems to develop into a stirring theatrical work, notwithstanding its beauty.

Sublime Intimacy is best enjoyed as a visual feast derived from many different, albeit inspired, sources, more effectively savored than stimulating rumination.

Venue: Kranzberg Arts Center, 501 North Grand Blvd.
Dates: December 10, 11, 12, 13, 17, 18, 19, 20
Tickets: $30-$35; contact 1-800-838-3006
Rating: A 4 on a scale of 1-to-5.