Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

June 10, 2022

REVIEW: Barrington Stage Company, Andy Warhol in Iran

St. Germain Stage, Pittsfield, MA
through June 25, 2022
by Jarice Hanson

After two long years, Barrington Stage Company has opened its doors to the St. Germain Stage again, featuring three world premieres in this season’s line up. The first, “Andy Warhol in Iran,” is a whip-smart two-hander with a script by Brent Askari that packs a punch.  Though perhaps everyone in the audience may have heard of Andy Warhol, this play allows the audience to understand Warhol as the artist and the man.

Henry Stram as Warhol, is in full possession of what he refers to as a “superpower” that allows him to see reality more clearly than the average person. His critique of capitalism, American values, and fleeting fame make sense when spoken by a pop icon but instill in the audience a sense of recognition of the absurdity of American popular culture.

Photo by Daniel Rader
Warhol travels to Iran in 1976, ostensibly to take Polaroid pictures of the wife of the Shah (she buys a lot of art), and while in his hotel room, is ambushed by Farhad, a radical who threatens to kidnap Warhol to get publicity for his political faction that seeks to overthrow the Shah. Nima Rakhshanifar as Farhad has the dark intensity of a young man willing to risk his life for his country. His size overpowers Warhol, and we see the artist and the revolutionary locked in a combat of real political intensity and psychological threat. The interplay of power and humanity is deftly interwoven until the inevitable resolution results in Warhol opining on art, politics, reality, and destiny.

Director Skip Greer builds intensity with the use of Joyce Liao’s lighting and Dan Roach’s excellent sound design. The blandness of the Tehran Hilton room designed by Brian Prather hints at the universal hotel comforts expected by Americans but is infused with subtle Iranian motifs to extend a feeling of the exotic. Yana Biryukova’s projections not only reference Warhol’s artistic catalog but serve as televised images foreshadowing the Iranian Revolution.

This play is heavy in imagery, but important politically and socially. As the two fine actors find the moments of connection and intransigence, the beauty of the script come shining through, and the audience is given a range of ideas to ponder. The intensity of political beliefs echo our contemporary reality as Warhol comments, “Revolutions remind me of the repetitions in my paintings. They’re just copies of copies. One after another. Pretty much the same. With just slight variations.”