"You were my soul . . . you silly, silly, dear, dear, silly old man." Thus spoke Georgia O'Keeffe, artist, to Alfred Stieglitz, photographer - and the man who had been her lover and husband for thirty years.
As the play begins, O'Keeffe is dragging a coffin onto the stage. Tired, angry, she begins to rip out the pink satin lining and sand and refinish the box. Just then the ghost of Stieglitz appears to her.He has come back, he says, to clear up "one of those deeply unsettled things between two people who care deeply for each other."
For the rest of the play they talk, argue, laugh and hold each other, recalling times of their lives together - and for the audience, bringing vividly to life one of America's most fascinating artists.
Teresa Sanderson is O'Keeffe. Raymond Hoskins is Stieglitz.
Hoskins was good. Sanderson has never been better. The play calls on her to move back and forth in time. She is 30 years old for a few minutes, then 50, then back to 35. Her transitions are so seamless that we never really focus on the change in time, but we feel we are constantly moving forward, into a deeper understanding of O'Keeffe and the power of love.
She tells Alfred that she was never fully herself until they fell in love. Watching "Alfred Stieglitz Loves O'Keeffe," you realize how true her words are. As the play unfolds, she becomes more and more herself, an increasingly powerful artist.
Finally, when she is at the peak of her creative powers and feels the most dependent on his love to sustain her, he fails her. He is only human. She tells herself she has to go the rest of the way alone.
But he is still alive. And she knows she can still return to him, come back from Taos to New York City and find him waiting.
And he realizes, as he is dying, that he has to help her go the rest of the way alone. He loves her so much that he comes back to her for a time to show her how to go forward without him.
This is a wonderfully romantic play. Yet it is coarse. Some people may be offended as Sanderson poses topless. In addition, Stieglitz's photos of a nude O'Keeffe are often flashed on the wall of the stage.
The play, as directed by Barb Gandy and staged in the small, steeply sloping theater of the Salt Lake Arts Center, is all about intimacy and artistry.
The staging enhances that feeling of intimacy. The set - a simple apartment dominated by a coffin - becomes even more dramatic as photos of New York City and photos taken by Stieglitz appear on the stage walls. The lighting was dramatic, too, helping us to see the apartment as a blank canvas for the art which Stieglitz and O'Keeffe were creating within it.
- Sensitivity rating: Partial nudity, vulgarity.