Also see Kevin's review of Affluenza!
Art (which won the Tony Award for Best Play in 1998), focuses on a trio of well-to-dos. Serge (Christian Rockwell) buys a modern painting that is totally white. One friend, Marc (Paul Tei), is disturbed by Serge’s purchase while the other friend, Yvan (Heath Kelts), is optimistic. While they argue back and forth about the painting’s purpose in Serge’s life, bitterness and old wounds come to the surface testing the trio’s friendship.
Yasmina Reza splits Art up into monologues and scenes depicting what lies beneath the surface - or canvas, in this case. The painting is not the centerpiece of the play. It is only a launching pad to reawaken a long running deep grudge between Marc and Serge, while Yvan is there to play referee. So, we have three men talking and disagreeing about a painting, arguing about what it means and what they mean to each other, in an hour and a half.
And for that, it garnered a Tony?
The pacing of Art starts and stops like a stalling engine. Too much time lapses to get a point across, therefore making the root of the play meaningless. The premise is dull, and the conflict uninteresting. Not even Reza’s climax has much of a bite, plus her dénouement is resolved too quickly. This Mosaic presentation tries very hard to dress Art in fancy duds to make it worth a perusal. Artistic Director Richard Simon chooses top-notch talent with mixed results.
Paul Tei brings a swagger to his role as narcissistic Marc, but he meets his match in Christian Rockwell as the steadfast buyer Serge. Both players are committed to their roles, bringing a sense of energy to Reza’s impassive text. Helth Kelts transfers his lovable dolt from the Actors’ Playhouse production of The Water Coolers into the guise of Yvan. He even gets to delve into a monologue about Yvan’s impending nuptials, which shows off his comedic side effectively.
Simon’s direction is also a standout here. The trio resembles the Three Stooges with Tei leading as Mo, Rockwell combating as Larry, and Kelts giving his best Curly impression. Ian Almeida’s set design is a work of art itself, giving the three characters neutral corners. Helping matters, Travis Neff provides smooth lighting transitions while Meredith Lasher returns to resident costume duty by giving the triumvirate nice threads.
Since I learned that art is subjective, my decision is clear: Art the play needs a trio of actors to make Yasmina Reza’s words echo poignancy and humor. Respect goes to Richard Simon for making a bold choice to produce this work. Hopefully, the next project will have more than just a stark white canvas to go on.
Art is playing until December 19th at the American Heritage Center for the Arts, 12200 West Broward Boulevard in Plantation. For tickets, please call (954) 577-8243 or visit www.mosaictheatre.com.
MOSAIC THEATRE - Art
Starring Paul Tei, Christian Rockwell, and Heath Kelts
Scenic Design: Ian Almeida
Directed by Richard Jay Simon
-- Kevin Johnson