The brilliant, moving and sometimes shocking play Permanent Collection officially opened at the InterAct Theatre on Wednesday, April 10th to a packed enthusiastic audience. Permanent Collection, written by Thomas Gibbons, playwright-in-residence at InterAct Theatre, dares to handle emotional, heart-thumping, delicate issues of racism, politics and control that others may be afraid to tackle. It is a slice of local Philadelphia life with players taken directly from the headlines of the local papers. It brings glimpses of African American History and the relationship of Dr. Barnes and Horace Mann Bond and Historically Black Lincoln University to mind. It is inspired by the legal and moral circumstances following the untimely death of Dr. Albert C. Barnes and what is happening with his $25 billion art collection in present day Philadelphia.
Insightful and talented, director Seth Rozin brings together again an outstanding cast from the original 2003 performance to celebrate the 25th Anniversary season of the InterAct Theatre. Recreating their roles are Frank X, Tim Moyer, Tom McCarthy and Maureen Torsney-Weir. The set was outstanding with the feel and look of actually being in an art museum. The music, sound and lighting set the tone and mood for this moving play.
Frank X, brought gasps and shock from the audience as he powerfully recreates his role of Sterling North the newly appointed African American director of the Morris Foundation when he notices a plethora of African art not being displayed. Tim Moyer poignantly gives new life to his role of Paul Barrow the education director who is loyal to the wishes set down by Dr. Morris. Tom McCarthy persuasively revives his role of Dr. Morris who provides the audience with a reality check throughout the play. Original cast member Maureen Torsney-Weir craftily playing the part of Gillian Crane the reporter lets us know just how much the media is in control of our daily lives. New to the cast is Lynnette R. Freeman who realistically plays Kanika Weaver assistant to Sterling North and Karen Vicks who touchingly plays Ella Franklin, the assistant to Dr. Morris and all directors of the Morris Foundation until Sterling North takes over.
Bringing authenticity to the fragile issues of race, art, media and law that collide in the play Ross Mitchell and Evelyn Yaari spoke with the audience on May 28th about the events before, during and after the move of the art collection to the Philadelphia location. Mitchell, a painter, studied at the Barnes Foundation with Violette de Mazia and was the Gallery Director at the Barnes Foundation in Merion Station led a thirteen million dollar renovation of the gallery. He provided first-hand knowledge of the actual events. As well as Yaari, President of Barnes Watch since June 2012, joined the Steering Committee as a concerned citizen of Lower Merion Township and served to improve communication with the media and the public.
What will happen with the issues of racism brought to the surface in the play? What will happen to the art collection? Permanent Collection skillfully brings to light moving, haunting and somewhat disturbing issues that must be addressed by an enlightened society. It is not too late to catch this riveting slice of Philadelphia life and drama. Permanent Collection can be seen through May 5 at InterAct Theatre 2030 Sansom Street, Philadelphia, Pa. You will not be disappointed!