The Gardner Museum Art Theft Netflix 1990 Series Features Set And Actors From The Berkshire Theater Group | Local news


A matrix printer spat out the silent alarm repeatedly in the wee hours of March 18, 1990. The alarm went unanswered. The biggest art theft in US history was taking place; Security guards were handcuffed and tied with duct tape in the basement of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum.

The robbery would have lasted 81 minutes; 13 works of art worth $ 500 million were taken. Among the stolen items were “Christ in the Storm on the Sea of ​​Galilee”, the only known seascape painted by Rembrandt, and “The Concert”, one of Johannes Vermeer’s 36 paintings.

Art has never been recovered. Top FBI suspects George Reissfelder and Lenny DiMuzio both died within a year of the robbery. The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum continues to offer a $ 10 million reward for information leading to the return of items.

The art theft, the resulting investigation, as well as the network of theories regarding the location of the artwork and possible links to Whitey Bulger, the Boston Mafia and the IRA are at the center of ‘a new four-part Netflix docusery, “This is Robbery: The World’s Biggest Art Heist,” which hits the streaming service on April 7.

“I think everyone in Massachusetts knows there was a theft, but not exactly what happened,” director Colin Barnicle said in a phone interview with The Eagle. “I always thought it was a ‘Thomas Crown Affair’ type heist.”

The real crime docuseries are a first for Barnicle and his brother, Nick Barnicle, who is one of the show’s producers. Their production company, Barnicle Brothers Inc., is best known for its sports and music documentaries, including Emmy Award-winning Billy Joel: New York State of Mind.

“It was a slow process,” said Colin Barnicle. “Songs were shot as early as 2016. It took five or six years to get to that point.”

After years of research, court visits, stalking former Gardner Museum employees, and interviewing, production was ready to begin its final filming phase in early 2020. As COVID-19 began to spread across the world, it became imperative that the production find places to film its evocations (reconstructions).

“We were four years in the production before shooting these scenes; apart from what we needed to shoot in Boston, we needed a controllable area to shoot. There aren’t many places like that in the northeast, ”he said.

Barnicle turned to associate producer Alex Hill for help. Hill, in turn, contacted his mother, Kate Maguire, artistic director and CEO of the Berkshire Theater Group.

“This series wouldn’t have happened without the help of the Berkshire Theater Group,” Barnicle said. “They took the ball and ran with it. Every evocation that didn’t take place at the Gardner Museum was filmed in the Berkshires on the Berkshire Theater Group campus. Their team built all the sets, making sure the actual proportions were correct. They provided the wardrobe, the lighting, the cast for the lead roles and even the additional roles.

On the spot: it's a theft

The Netflix docuseries, “This is a Robbery,” filmed scenes at various locations around the Berkshires, including locations inside and behind the Colonial Theater in Pittsfield. Other locations included the Berkshire Museum and the Unicorn Theater.

Filming in the Berkshires took place in mid-February 2020, just weeks before Governor Charlie Baker shut down most of Massachusetts due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Working with the Barnicle brothers was a dream come true for the Berkshire Theater Group. We were able to use each of our campuses, build sets, provide technical support, bring in local actors and work with a really creative and professional team led by director Colin Barnicle, ”Maguire said in an email.

Actor Chris Vecchia, who has worked with BTG for the past decade and last appeared in “A Christmas Carol” in 2019 portrayed Reissfelder, one of the two men, according to the FBI, was able to enter. in the Gardner Museum pretending to be police officers. The other thief, DiMuzo, was played by BTG actor Joshua Bishoff.

“At the Unicorn Theater, the whole stage has been turned into an office. Standing on stage, you always had that theatrical vibe. It’s amazing how different he is through the eye of the camera. It looked like an entirely different scene, ”Vecchia said, adding that another scene had been turned into Reissfelder’s apartment, where he allegedly hung one of Manet’s stolen paintings on his wall.

Vecchia also spent time filming in the basement of the Colonial Theater, where BTG actor Brandon Lee, as security guard Rick Abath, was handcuffed and tied with duct tape.

“Rick is the guy who went down in history as the man who let the thieves in. It’s a weird series of weird decisions, at least for Rick – assuming he’s not involved – who led to him being tied up in the basement, ”said Lee, who appeared on“ Godspell ”last summer. “I spent most of my day in handcuffs and duct tape. They used double sided tape so that they could stick it around my head and not stick it to my wig or my face. Because of the duct tape, I could only see with the lower third of my field of vision in a dark, handcuffed basement. It was definitely one of the strangest days of working as an actor. “

Vecchia also spent time filming in Boston; filming outside the Gardner Museum and driving through the streets of Boston.

“When we were in Boston the street we were turning on was closed. I was playing a thief disguised as a Boston police officer, so I had a uniform,” he said. “During a break, I was standing at the end of the street, when a policeman approached the traffic light on the corner. He looked at me and gave me a professional nod. That’s how good this production was. professional; everything I wore right down to the hat and badge was so authentic that a real police officer thought I was an officer on the set.

This is a theft

Associate producer Alex Hill adjusts the focus of a camera on the set of “This is A Robbery”. Brandon Lee (seated) plays Rick Abath, the Guardian on Duty on the Night of Art Theft. Also pictured (second from right) Shawn Ryder, grip, and Jeff Siegel, producer, who plays the role of police officer.

The time spent filming in the Berkshires – around 20 setups – allowed the docuseries to complete filming before parts of the country found themselves in a pandemic-induced lockdown, Barnicle said.

So what can viewers expect from the docuseries?

“We have decided to keep it simple and enjoyable for everyone, especially those who hear about this crime for the first time. We wanted to give an accurate overview of the crime scene and what was going on there, ”Barnicle said.

Because of that goal, he said about 90 percent of the searches done do not appear in the series.

“We had four episodes to work on. We needed a beginning, a middle and an end for an unsolved and untried case without a written record, ”Barnicle said. “Everyone has a theory as to what happened.”

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