OutCast presents play about love and the love of art

“Gertrude Stein and A Companion” will run at the Black Box Theater in Langley.

She had an exquisite eye for art. She wrote books that stirred up controversy and she was famously in love with Alice Babette Toklas, when being gay was a lot more treacherous than today. She loved to laugh, and her famous Parisian friends found her utterly compelling even though the public misunderstood her work.

There are any number of interesting and important tidbits about the life of writer Gertrude Stein. One of the most significant, however, is what happened after she met Alice, the love of her life.

“Gertrude Stein and A Companion” is a play by Win Wells and is directed here by Patricia Duff in a staged reading at Outcast Productions. It runs Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 4 p.m. from Nov. 24 to Dec. 3 at the Black Box Theater at the Island County Fairgrounds in Langley. It is a revival of the play by the two actors, Duff as Gertrude and Martha Murphy as Alice, who performed the piece at OutCast in 2012.

Stein was an experimental author, mentor to writers and collector of art — namely painters such as Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, Georges Braque and Paul Cezanne, and the writers Ernest Hemingway, Sherwood Anderson, Ezra Pound, F. Scott Fitzgerald and others. She became indebted to Toklas, her lifelong companion, who not only remained devoted to her memory and the life they shared but was almost single-handedly responsible for publishing her books.

The play begins just after the death of Stein in 1946. Her ghost returns to visit the still very much alive Alice at their Parisian flat. From there, the genesis and development of their relationship is richly portrayed, mainly through humor. In that good-humored way, which also perfectly describes the personality of Stein, the play reveals some of the most personal scenes of the couple’s rich cultural life together in Paris.

Wells explores what must have seemed a taboo relationship during the early part of the 20th century. Wells captures the art, music and literature of Paris in those “Lost Generation” years, as well as the feeling of the extraordinary period when Picasso and Hemingway became frequent guests of the couple’s famous salons at their flat at 27 Rue de Fleurus. There’s a lot to explore in Stein’s extraordinary life and her importance to art and culture in the 20th century can’t be overstated.

Outcast’s Black Box Theater is at 819 Camano Avenue in Langley. Get tickets online at outcastproductions.net, at the door or email ocp@whidbey.net for reservations.