Review

Pitmen...

Feb 22 2012
Hap Erstein | Palm Beach ArtsPaper

Lee Hall's play The Pitmen Painters is also based in real life, being the tale of a group of coal miners from Northern England who rose to prominence in the art world in the 1930s. ...The evening is intriguing -- there is surely a play in these miners' story... ...A couple of dozen grown men -- boiled down here to just five -- who have been unschooled since the age of 11, when they began working the coal mines of Ashington, enroll in an art appreciation course to better themselves. But they had never been to a museum, never even seen a painting. So with no basis in art, the urban teacher who arrives in their midst is frustrated for a way to begin. Eventually, he hatches a plan to gives his eager, but clueless students brushes, paint and canvases so they can learn by doing. His experiment unleashes their previously unknown artistic talent, turning the miners into The Ashington Group, working-class painters whose primitive art has become acclaimed and collected. The play also conjures up questions of the nature of art, specifically what is artistic talent, where does it come from and who can claim the title of artist... ...Palm Beach Dramaworks certainly gathers a terrific company of actors for the play's area premiere... Oliver, played with understated sensitivity by Declan Mooney... Colin McPhillamy as dense Jimmy Floyd gets some choice comic one-liners... ...John Leonard Thompson (instructor Robert Lyon) is nicely unnerved by his students' lack of knowledge, but he develops a palpable affection for them. And Kim Cozort adds a touch of class as art collector Sutherland, as well as showing off Erin Amico's well-heeled costumes. ...Director J. Barry Lewis stages the play simply and effectively...