It’s probably the coziest set you’ll come across all year. For Apple Tree Theatre’s “Vincent in Brixton”—a fictional rendering of Vincent Van Gogh’s early years as a young art dealer in London—Keith Pitts has designed a nineteenth-century rooming-house kitchen paneled with warm saffron-hued walls and a constant fire in the wood-burning stove. But it is the smell of simmering food—a combination that brings to mind dumplings and spiced meat marinating in its own juices—that ultimately stays in your memory. It wafts through the theater during most of the first act, an olfactory seduction that is a prelude, of sorts, to a literal seduction between a sexually naïve van Gogh (the charming Christopher McLinden, with his serious eyes, pointy-soft features and tousled hair) and his much older landlady, Mrs. Loyer (Lisa Dodson in an earthy, complex performance). That van Gogh lived in such a boarding house is verifiable; the affair itself is pure conjecture on the part of playwright Nicholas Wright, who uses it as a way to explore the artist at his most optimistic—before the turpentine cocktails, before the mental institutions, before the ear. The lines don’t really connect—the van Gogh of the play is a little moody, but it’s not exactly clear how he eventually makes his way down the path to “The Café Terrace” or “Starry Night.” Then again, it doesn’t really matter. If anything, the story details the ways in which artists—or, in this case, budding artists—can make for passionate and ultimately disappointing lovers. And in this sense, director Kurt Johns has elicited some excellent performances from his five-member cast. (Nina Metz)
This production is now closed.