By Edward Kliszus
Many people dismiss graffiti art as vandalism or the work of gangs marking their territory. But in Hit the Wall, we discover that there is a coterie of serious graffiti artists, each striving to create their magnum opus.
The scene opens in an apartment in New York City. Renowned graffiti artist Amir (Adam Files) lives with his gifted protégé, Rae (Alexandra Guerrero), who just returned from an attempt to paint her “Madonna and Child” on a wall in Crown Heights, Brooklyn. Rae wallows in her disappointment as Amir encourages her to return to complete the painting. In his attempt to support her, he meanders through a philosophical debate on how one defines their failures, temporal art, and the meaning of life.
Amir asks about the graffiti’s location, and upon discovering that a chain muffin store has opened within view of the wall, he is aghast. He launches into a tirade of rancorous criticism of chain stores that obscure local character and identity and, at best, cater to tourists and outsiders. In a way, a chain store has soiled the environment of an artistic creation.
Times Square Graffiti
Rae digresses into why Amir should paint a wall in Times Square where it can be seen by throngs of travelers. Rae’s suggestion inflames Amir’s sensibility for the primacy of local character as he perseverates about the many commercial businesses, television screens, chain stores, and tourists. Amir and Rae continue to communicate subtly and explicitly, sometimes hilariously, as they feed their personality quirks and trap each other with emotional triggers. We sense they love each other but sometimes seem weary from the effort of these interactions.
The debate continues into the aesthetic realms proffered by Susanne Langer and Ernst Gombrich to determine whether art is infinite, practical, or absolute. Can art exist in its own virtual world, or does it exist only in the mind of the viewing participant? Can a work of art affect human behavior? At one point, Amir becomes aware that he is being watched by an unseen audience, to which Rae reacts by doubting his sanity. Some audience members seemed to squirm at Amir’s Twilight Zone moment.
Trust Fund Babies are the Problem
The banter and occasional verbal jabbing are primarily gentle. Still, with Amir and the appearance of his flask of gin, discussion escalates to a sometimes-unpleasant amplification of his temperamental disposition. His rant escalates into an amusing excoriation of NYU professors, the trust fund babies they teach, and his need for anonymity to avoid arrest.
Rae finishes her “Madonna and Child,” and Amir surreptitiously travels to see it. When Rae discovers Amir visited her painting, she hopes to hear his tribute of unhindered amazement. Still, while Amir lauds her talent and virtuosity, he notes a lack of message akin to achieving a well-crafted commercial advertisement. He seems jealous of his protégé when she reports millions of views of her painting on social media. Her new success seems incongruent with his criticisms, and at this point, one wonders if the personal sphere of their relationship can survive. Might it be time the protégé chooses to leave the nest or remain Amir’s epigone?
All the World a Stage
Times Square, the police, and the recent death of Rae’s father converge, contributing to the mix of situations challenging our heroine who aspires to create a seminal artistic work that outlives us. Hit the Wall is a thoughtful, philosophical, and metaphysical romp through human relationships, aspirations, artistic integrity, and what inspires us. And is all the world really a stage?
Don’t miss the fun at the Kraine Theater’s intimate black box venue. Refreshments are available in the theater and Hit the Wall runs through August 11.
The runtime is about 75 minutes.
HIT THE WALL
Written by Jake Shore
Directed by Timothy Haskell
Paul Smithyman (sets), Brynne Oster-Bainnson (costumes), Yang Yu (lighting), Zoe Stanton-Savitz (sound design), Jenn Susi (intimacy coordinator), and Caden Cox (stage manager).
Runs July 13 – August 11, Thursday – Saturday at 7 pm.
Kraine Theater, 85 E 4th Street
Tickets are $25, available at www.frigid.nyc.