Art is the story of three men, Serge, Marc and Yvan, who fancy themselves art connoisseurs. To them, though art is a pastime rather than a profession, it is an area toward which they feel a pretentious degree of passion. After Serge spends a large sum of money (200,000 French francs) on a white-on-white modern painting, he invites Marc and Yvan to view the newly acquired canvas. The three men vehemently argue the artistic merits of the painting, but it is the dynamics of their relationship which are truly being evaluated.
Marc is long accustomed to being in control of the friendship between the three men. He attacks the painting, and Serge's taste, with an air of intellectual superiority. Clearly, he is really objecting to the painting being chosen without his advice more than to the painting itself. Yvan is non-committal in his opinion of the painting, in keeping with his passive role in his relationship with Serge and Marc. It is not certain whether we ever learn Yvan's true opinion of the piece as he struggles to remain neutral.
Written in 1994 by Yasmina Reza, the original French production of Art won the Molière Award for Best Play, Best Production, and Best Author. After being translated by Christopher Hampton, it opened on Broadway and won the Tony Award for Best Play in 1998.
The wordy dialogues in Art maintain a natural feel, but the script is without much texture and depth. Perhaps in an attempt to clarify that the story is about the friendship at hand, Reza has made her script too simple. There are no unfolding stories between the friends of long kept secrets, or of any shared triumphs or losses. There are no reflections on their past or future together that are of any mention. These are the sorts of things which build friendships of value and interest that are worth writing about. With these elements missing, Reza provides a script hardly worth watching. Thankfully, director Hugh Murphy lends the tightest of pacing to a show that could drag tediously.
The action takes place in Serge's apartment. The lighting and sound are solid in this small space, and David R. Torres provides a set that is clean, modern and chic. The only technical flaw is that the canvas used in the production is clearly not as large as mentioned in the script.
Mark A. Harmon, as Yvan, is the strongest of the three actors in this production. His intentions are always clear, and his lengthy monologue on his impending nuptials is especially good. PJ King brings a likable gentlemanly dignity to the character of Serge. Unfortunately, the show is hampered by Josh Mesnick as Marc. He moves stiffly through his blocking, and in a character that should be knowledgeable and commanding, he comes off as snide and snotty.
Art will be appearing at the Stage Door Theatre through September 10, 2006. The theatre is located at 8036 W. Sample Road in Coral Springs. The Stage Door Theatre is a not-for-profit professional theatre company hiring local and non-local nonunion actors and actresses. Their two stages in Coral Springs, as well as their 26th Street Theatre location in Wilton Manors are open year round. For tickets and information, you may contact them by phone at 954-344-7765 or on line at www.stagedoortheatre.com.