An ambitious new work views the surrealists through a Native American lens.
Numerous books have been written about these artists but we know little about Fidelin, whose fame peaked with a Man Ray fashion photo that appeared in Harper's Bazaar in 1937.
Playwright Rhiana Yazzie seeks to fill in the art historical picture. Her two-person play "Ady"--now premiering at the Playwrights' Center in Minneapolis--is a meditation on identity, culture and art. Its ambition is made clear by Jess West's simple, spare set, with empty picture frames suspended from the ceiling.
"Ady" has many promising features, including Yazzie's sometimes vividly poetic language. But the play is a work in progress, with a confusing structure and an unfocused story line.
It revolves around a Navajo Indian named Adrienne (played by Avia Bushyhead) who resembles and strongly identifies with Fidelin, who is called Ady in the play (Leah Nelson). Their lives intersect in this time-jumping work that uses a surrealist filter to deal with indigenous culture.
Yazzie, a Native American playwright living in the Twin Cities on a Jerome Fellowship, is thoughtful and smart. It's just that her ideas in "Ady" do not take dramatic flight.
Below: "Leah Nelson, left, and Avia Bushyhead in Ady. (Ann Marsden)