Inside Andy Warhol

By Philip Pearce

CAROL MARQUART is a specialty playwright. Her forte is personality sketches of men and women like William Randolph Hearst and Dorothy Parker who have brought color and eccentricity and controversy to life in twentieth century America.

She and the Monterey County Theatre Alliance last weekend presented an online three character theatrical portrait called Inside Andy Warhol.

Three of our area’s top performers brought humor and energy to the script’s trio of roles.  Keith Decker was a wild-eyed, white-wigged, perversely enigmatic Andy. Teresa Del Piero was dynamically obsessive as his friend Brigid Berlin, trying to wheedle Andy into co-writing a book called The Philosophy of Andy Warhol. MCTA’s own Andrea McDonald was sniffy and stuck- up as a traditionalist art critic reacting to paintings of Liz Taylor, dollar bills and Coke bottles.  The three of them kept their group cool when Decker disappeared off his Zoom screen for several minutes. It was the kind of technical glitch that goes with the public health territory these days.

Marquart has collected an impressive set of visuals to accompany the story. They underline some familiar facts about Andy and establish some others that were new. I hadn’t been aware that, after the publication of Truman Capote’s Other Voices, Other Rooms, Warhol vigorously wooed Capote with love letters and flowers which Capote ignored. Or that Andy kept and treasured an autographed picture he had requested at the age of nine from Shirley Temple.

Visually and dramatically Inside Andy Warhol has all the makings of a coherent documentary.  But I was disappointed at the way the ingredients were mixed and served up.

Presumably because viewers may not start the show knowing a whole lot about Warhol, Marquart begins with a succession of images illustrating people and events that will be covered in the script. They deal with things like Warhol’s parentage, the personalities in his Silver Factory art and movie studio, his near-fatal shooting by a disgruntled actress named Valerie Solanas. Backed by intense piano music, these significant illustrations are all lumped together before the action of the play begins.

The result is that when the things illustrated later happen, we probably have only a vague if any memory at all of the context they should provide. Better is to experience the picture at the time it has meaning than to try to think back to something you viewed before anything was actually happening.

Adroit placing of the visuals during the action of the play would also, in my view, solve another problem. Much of the hour-long piece is an extended phone conversation between the Decker and Del Piero characters. The actors carry it off with the élan of seasoned troupers. Their talk covers significant information but there’s too much of it. It is too tightly packed. We would catch its twists and subtleties if there were cuts to the photographs, news stories and printed captions of an Andy Warhol scrapbook.