By Marcina Zaccaria
Andy Warhol believed that anyone could be famous for 15 minutes or more. It’s that jarring truth that introduces a point of inquiry in The Trial of Andy Warhol. Is Warhol responsible for creating Social Media culture?
If Social Media is the culprit, Warhol seems to be the victor, in the end. Yet, who is there to judge? Inevitably, one must be judged by a jury of one’s peers. This cabaret act is full of famous figures who dance into Andy’s life, stirring or stabilizing a ripple effect of journalistic frenzy. Valerie Solanas, Jean-Michel Basquiat, and the mention of Jasper Johns keep our ears perked to the latest gossip from the glitterati at Andy’s Studio.
Ryan Raftery (Ugly Betty, What I Like About You, Law and Order: SVU) proves to be absolutely endearing as Andy Warhol. With his floppy, white hair and crisp trousers with boots, all looks sleek and casual. The fame he introduces, so relevant in today’s Social Media culture, is sometimes staggering, yet this charming story, by Ryan Raftery & Jay Turton, has moments of levity. Set to tunes that we already know, it glosses over ugly celebrity while celebrating the most triumphant moments of Warhol’s career. Raftery reminds us that Warhol re-defined portraiture with silk screening. Making a sensation, the repetitions of Elizabeth Taylor and Marilyn Monroe were an exponential sight to see.
Guilty or Not Guilty? We should be the judge. With Social Media’s flash, point, and click world, I have to ask: where is the authenticity in the now? While the trial of everyday living doesn’t rise to an awful penalty in Raftery’s drama, his script continually asks the unnerving question, “Are we dead?” This question sends the imagination whirling into an uncertain cosmos that feels considerably less sturdy than Warhol’s memorable pop-art scene at the Factory. It could be a new problem of the Media, but the thought,“Are we dead?” struck me as an awful surprise, particularly after walking the ground near the subway in SoHo, only about 15 minutes away.
Stage direction by Jay Turton and Musical Direction by James Rushin keeps us on our toes, listening to a Warhol that is dominant and petulant. Edie Sedgewick (Suzy Jane Hunt), Jean-Michel Basquiat (Devin Snow), and Brigid Berlin (Jess Watkins) are a fine entourage who slowly reveal the soul of the artist. To them, Warhol proves to be an equally thoughtful confidant and superstar. While he had so much to say about the fame of others, Raftery’s singing against his silver-tone projection is the most striking still-frame of the artist and himself. In that moment, the emotional genius of creation finally takes form.
The Trial of Andy Warhol. Through March 12 at Joe’s Pub in the Public Theater Building (425 Lafayette Street at Astor Place, Greenwich Village, NYC). www.publictheater.org