Theater Review

Review: 'Art' a fine, funny staging with theme of maintaining friendships

CorrespondentSeptember 9, 2013 

  • Details

    What: “Art,” by Yasmina Reza

    Where: Raleigh Little Theatre, 301 Pogue St.

    When: 8 p.m. Sept. 12-14, 19-21 and 26-28; 3 p.m. Sept. 15, 22 and 29

    Tickets: $16-$20

    Info: 919-821-3111 or raleighlittletheatre.org

The title of Yasmina Reza’s international hit, “Art” indicates the play’s central subject, a controversial artwork. But its larger theme is the art of maintaining close friendships and the consequences of letting them wither. Raleigh Little Theatre’s fine, funny staging will likely motivate audiences to reconfirm their valued best friends despite quirks and differences.

Serge, who likes all things contemporary, purchases a painting by a trendy artist for 200,000 francs. He thinks the all-white canvas is cutting-edge, but when he shows it to his longtime friend Marc, who values classical culture and well-established art, Marc’s strongly negative reaction puts a crack in their relationship. They pull their younger friend Yvan into the fray, each trying to get him to take a side, but Yvan’s usual attempts to please everyone only anger them more.

Tensions escalate as the three bring up long-harbored irritations over perceived character flaws and bad taste. When things finally come to blows, the trio’s strong bonds seem permanently broken.

The play’s dialogue is a heady mix of art jargon, cultural references and elevated language (with a smattering of profanity), but it’s easy to see the humanity beneath the sophistication. Director Jesse R. Gephardt astutely brings the human comedy to the forefront, attested by the warm, constant laughter from Friday night’s audience. He keeps the pace moving in this 90-minute one-act but encourages his actors to take time to register reactions and to use silent moments to convey emotions.

The piece is well-cast with confident, experienced actors. Chris Brown fills Serge with the right mix of pomposity and frustration, revealing his insecurity and need for validation. Mark Phialas gives Marc an appropriate caustic peevishness that exposing his need to be acknowledged as arbiter and mentor. Yvan’s meek nervousness and desire to be accepted is fully limned in Kevin Leonard’s appealing portrayal.

Thomas Mauney’s set cleverly represents three different apartments, and his lighting design cleanly distinguishes internal monologs from the rest of the dialog.

The staging for the three-quarter round seating obscures some key lines and reactions, but the intimacy it allows pulls the audience into the appreciable impact of friends falling out and their attempts to salvage the situation.

Dicks: music_theater@lycos.com

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