ART HEIST EXPERIENCE
Created by Justin Sudds, Co-founder of Right Angle Entertainment
Written and directed by TJ Dawe and Ming Hudson
Presented by AT&T Performing Arts Center and the Lexus IS
AT&T Performing Arts Center
Reviewed Performance: 3/31/2021
Reviewed by Chris Hauge, Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN
On March 18, 1990, two men dressed as policemen entered the Isabella Stewart Gardener Museum in Boston, Massachusetts, handcuffed and gagged the on-duty security guards, and took 13 art pieces with an estimated value of $500 million. It was the largest art heist in history and remains unsolved to this day. The items have never been returned and the Gardner museum has offered a reward of $10 million for anyone with information on the whereabouts of these artworks.
The “Art Heist Experience” asks the question; do you have what it takes to solve this mystery once and for all? Over the course of 90 minutes, you and the other people in your group are cast as FBI recruits, prowling the outdoor grounds of the AT&T Performing Arts Center Campus and questioning the likely suspects behind this historic crime. Could one of the security guards, known for holding after-hours parties in the museum, assisted the thieves in committing the robbery? Is the wily thief known as ‘The Teflon Don,’ for his ability to avoid arrest, the mastermind of the heist? Or has one of the perpetrators fled to South America to live off his ill- gotten money only to die of AIDS in 2004 (maybe)? And, of course, we must talk to the loquacious braggart convict who has successfully planned the theft of valuable artworks from prison in the past. Was he able to do it again with the Gardner Heist?
You can see that we have been placed firmly in the realm of ‘Clue’ and interactive murder mysteries. And it is great fun. Instead of Colonel Mustard and Miss Scarlet, we mingle with the real-life suspects and are led through the proceedings by the real investigators who spent years trying to figure out who pulled off the biggest art heist in history. Our guides are Anthony Amore, the current director of security at the Gardner Museum, Bob Wittman who was the first FBI agent specifically assigned to art theft, and Harold Smith, a career insurance investigator. Each one takes turns leading us to various outdoor places between the Meyerson Symphony Center and the Winspear Opera House to interrogate the suspects.
And a varied group they are. There is the security guard Rick Abath, who may or may not have been part of the robbery. We also have the career criminal Dave Turner, the runaway so-called writer Brian McDevitt, and the boastful, self-obsessed convict Myles Connor, Jr. The actors portraying these people commit to their performances completely. It is an entertaining evening of cat and mouse with the audience trying to tease out information from the always evasive and dissembling actors.
The casting for the various parts is gender blind. So, if someone introduces themselves as Bob and they do not look the way you expect Bob to look, just roll with it. It adds to the fun. I did not have a cast list at the writing of this article, and I regret not being able to recognize individual actors. All of them did a wonderful job of inhabiting their characters and making them real. Armed with a provided dossier on my phone, it was fun questioning them and listening to their responses, taking each answer with a healthy grain of salt.
I also enjoyed the inventive use of the AT&T Performing Arts Center outdoor area, especially employing the Donor Reflecting Pool in front of the Winspear Opera House as a one-man beach. Most importantly, it was just so much fun being at any kind of performance. The last time I attended a play was March 13, 2020, just before the world closed in on itself. The chance to be part of an audience (socially distanced, I must add), and the opportunity to watch actors work is a joyful experience. I thank the actors of the “Art Heist Experience” for providing that with their talent and heart.
The only regret I have is that there were not more people in the group my wife and I were with the night we attended. It would have provided more energy for the actors to work with. And I did not crack the case and claim the $10 million reward. Oh well. I had a lot of fun and that is reward enough.
ART HEIST EXPERIENCE
A True Crime Walking Theater Event
March 30 – April 18, 2021
AT&T Performing Arts Center Campus
2403 Flora Street, Dallas, TX 75201
Call 214-880-0202 for show times and tickets.
Or visit on the Web at attpac.org