Permanent Collection

Review by Willard Manus

As part of its new play production program, Center Theatre Group recently presented PERMANENT COLLECTION, which was first offered in 2005 by the Equity-waiver companies Robey Theatre and Greenway Arts Alliance. The CTG re-mounted the show at its "uptown" home, the Kirk Douglas Theatre.

The Thomas Gibbons drama, directed by Dwain Perry, was a worthy effort, a provocative examination of racial issues in our time. Set in a small but elegant museum founded and subsidized by an eccentric tycoon, the late Alfred Morris (Kent Minault, as his ghost), the institution is shaken up when its newly appointed head, Sterling North (Ben Guillory), takes command. North, a pompous, Jaguar-driving, expensively-shod African-American, comes to the museum from the business world, but still has firm convictions where art is concerned. Cezanne and Manet are fine, but African artists are just as good and should be represented with a wall of their own.

The notion upsets Paul Barrow (Doug Cox), the white curator who was passed over for the top job. Believing that the museum's mandate and principles have been violated, he sounds off to a local reporter (Kiersten Morgan), thereby triggering a community brouhaha which results in his being fired by North. Barrow fights back by forming a protest group which pickets the museum. Accusations of racism and discrimination hurtle back and forth over the walls of the institution, with devastating results.

Caught between North and Barrow is Kanika Weaver (LaFern Watkins), who works for the former but is an old friend of the latter. Had Gibbons given her a more visceral role in the drama--say as Barrow's lover--PERMANENT COLLECTION would have had much more impact and depth, becoming not just a play of ideas but a full-fledged, blood and guts tragedy.

On tap at the Kirk Douglas Theatre are the family show The Stones by Tom Lycos & Stefo Nantsou (March 12-April 9); Solomania!, a repertory festival of solo performance artists--Jerry Quigley in Live From the Front, Dan Guerrero in Gaytino!, Adriana Sevan in Taking Flight and Roger G. Smith in The Watts Tower Project (April 26-June 11); and the American premiere of Pyrenees by David Greig (July 2-Aug 6).

Kirk Douglas Theatre, 9820 Washington Blvd., Culver City. Call (213) 628-2772 or visit