I walked into From Darkness with the knowledge that it was about art, creation, and possibly forgery. I honestly wasn't sure. What I walked away with was a deeper knowledge of certain aspects of art, art history, the post-war New York art scene, and some aspects of forgery. The underlying story (from my view) was about Stanley Mansfield - an artist who was coming into his own at the same time as Jackson Pollack, Lee Krasner, and Willem de Kooning. This was the start of the Abstract Expressionism which was the first specifically American art movement that achieved international influence. Helping this movement was a gallery owner named Betty Parsons. She was one of the first advocates for these artists and had great effect on the art world. As pure contrast, and a really fun scene, there is also some stage time for Andy Warhol and his Factory.
Over this fascinating history is the driving story of a possible forgery found at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. The forgery story is based around a painting by Caravaggio, specifically The Denial of St. Peter. The play switches back and forth between the past and the present, building to a fascinating and exciting ending.
The staging and direction was pitch perfect. It kept the action moving. This can be tough for a show that runs 2.5 hours with an intermission. However it covers a lot of ground, from the historical background to the ongoing questions of what is art, the meaning of art, why artists create, and even if there is a true American art style. Fascinating and intriguing questions that are answered as well as they can be through out the show. There were a few times I felt that pacing was slow, but I am attributing that to opening night jitters. I also found it odd that there were quite a few folks smoking on stage, yet never any smoke. I won't say it was distracting, but clearly it caught my attention. What I will say is this. It can be challenging to navigate and direct a show that is created collaboratively, and I believe that Josh Cragun has done a fantastic job at that. Especially on a new work that has a lot to say.
If you are at all interested in learning about art and American art, or even curious about art forgeries - this is the play for you. If you want a really good time in the theatre, this show is also for you. It was interesting, exciting, and illuminating. Keep your eye on Nimbus Theatre - I know that I will.