CHAUTAUQUA - The third and final production in the Chautauqua Theater Company's New Play Workshop is now on the Boards at the Bratton Family Theater, and it is every bit as interesting and challenging as the first two.
''Carve,'' by Molly Smith Metzler, even more than the first two plays in the festival, makes a heavy exploration of the issue of who really owns a work of art.
Josh Darbin is an up-and-coming young artist in New York City. Josh has created a painting with the title ''Carve,'' and it has been wildly popular. There are prints of it on the sides of every bus in the city, for example.
When the play begins, Josh is just finishing his next art work, as his attractive young assistant prepares for the arrival of a wealthy and powerful executive with the Guggenheim Museum, who they hope will purchase the next artwork. Instead of the Guggenheim executive, there arrives a young man and immediately it's obvious that his claim to be a representative of a wealthy collector of art is a lie.
We soon learn that the young man (He has several names in the play. We'll call him Josh, which is the character's real name) is actually an attorney. He believes that ''Carve'' is a painting of his mother. Since she has not signed a release giving permission to use her image, Josh claims he plans to sue.
It turns out that Josh has painted ''Carve,'' but his assistant, Jessa made the drawings from which the final painting was taken. Is the painting Josh's property? Jessa's? The model's?
If there are to be lawsuits and punishments, is the responsibility Josh's? Jessa's? The museum's?
Playwright Molly Smith Metzler has carefully explored the depths of memory, creativity, and originality, yet she makes her characters funny, her situations believable, and involves her audience, both intellectually and emotionally.
James Badge Dale had a clear bead on the character of the artist: self-indulgent, a bit lazy, and completely outside the box, where creativity lives.
Andrea Syglowski was lovely as the artist's assistant, clearly intended to get no credit for the work of art, but possibly slated to take the blame, and telling us she isn't sure what credit or blame she deserves, in her own mind.
Carol Halstead was wonderfully moving as the painting's model, balancing compassion and callousness visibly and understandably.
Charlie Thurston had the biggest challenge, as his character of the lawyer was least clearly sketched, in the play which had never been performed in front of an audience before Wednesday, and which is largely re-written several times as the workshop progresses. He's a good-looking young man who does the threatening attorney well and the aching son of a challenging mother equally well. It was putting the two halves together which gave him the challenge.
Director Andrew Borba recognized the skilled narrative quality, and steered the action carefully, for utmost audience involvement.
''Carve'' will be repeated twice more, Saturday at 2:15 p.m. and Sunday at 8 p.m. I have enjoyed all three of the new plays very much, and recommend any and all of them to you.