Fred Curchack's multimedia portrait of French painter Paul Gauguin wins one over surprisingly early. Part of it is the rebel Gauguin himself, the well-heeled stockbroker turned bohemian and Western civilization dropout ("All I ever wanted was to dare everything").
His words -- defiant, petulant, ego-maniacal, nakedly forthright -- make up the engrossing dialogue as photographs and an increasing number of distinctively bright, bold paintings are projected on an upstage scrim. Highlights include Gauguin's brief but horrifying relationship with Van Gogh, and his wild but inspired years in Tahiti and in the Marquesas, where he finally succumbs to a degenerating bout with alcohol and syphilis.
But the strength of the piece can't be divorced from Curchack's frenetic energy: he flits about constantly, acting out his prerecorded narrative or answering it with another line, punctuating words with jagged body parts, manipulating a gangling puppet, illuminating his face with pen lights, casting grotesque silhouettes from behind the screen, catching projected images on his shirt or with handheld panels that turn Gauguin's lush images into a kinetic mobile with an almost cubist three-dimensionality.
Curchack brings Gauguin, 100 years dead, into vivid relief."
Robert Avila, San Francisco Bay Guardia