June 14, 2015

We do love a good, tragic back story to go with our artists. They’re so much easier to market that way. Ben (Rory Kulz), the frustrated painter at the center of Sam Marks’s “The Old Masters,” is out of luck there. He has talent, or so we’re told, but what a conventional path he’s traced: art school, marriage to an architect, a new house in a gritty neighborhood that he and his wife, Olive (Alesandra Nahodil), are helping to gentrify. Somewhere along the line he started driving a Volvo, and he doesn’t even get high anymore. Now Olive is pregnant. Fatherhood looms. Directed by Brandon Stock at the Flea Theater, the play is as much about Ben’s unwillingness to go gentle into that good life as it is about taking aim at art-world pretensions. Those spitballs start flying immediately, when Lara (Adelind Horan) brings Ben a box of paintings her boyfriend Henry made. A sporadically employed alcoholic, this friend of Ben’s from the old days was a troubled guy — maybe still is, but who knows? Henry’s gone missing these past few months. His works are good, and the sadness of his tale can only add to his cachet. Ben takes the canvases to his gallerist, and soon Henry is a sensation.