Regional Reviews: San Diego
Also see Bill's review of October Sky
In Paris, a modern art connoisseur named Serge (Jason Heil) buys an all-white painting for $200,000. Serge hopes to impress his close pal Marc (Daren Scott) with the picture. However, Marc despises Serge's investment and that causes him to think less of his friend as a person. Tensions begin to boil between the two, and both end up questioning their relationship. Getting dragged into their mishegas is mutual chum Yvan (Jacob Bruce). Yvan wants the friction between his buddies to dissipate, but comical madness continues to grow over a long day.
The painting that fuels the conflicts in Art is as odd as it sounds. It's easy to immediately grin every time it makes an appearance onstage, especially when Marc verbally insults the image. Each time the painting materializes, awkward exchanges seem to increase. Reza's dialogue, translated by Christopher Hampton, uses big words and sophisticated language in an intentionally absurd manner. Marc and Serge's articulate ways of speaking suggests they feel culturally superior to the rest of the human race. It's an interesting contrast to Yvan's unpretentious conversational skills, which allows him to be much more relatable and down to earth. A lot of the funniest moments involve the extremely contrasting personalities of the three main characters. Yvan's presence is welcome, because he is the most likable and affable. Marc and Serge act so amusingly high and mighty that it's nice to have a person who is less cynical to balance them out.
Jeanne Reith's costumes visually comment on the personae. Marc is dressed in business clothing, while Yvan's attire is fairly casual. Serge is dressed a little more fashionably than Yvan, but not to the extent of Marc. Scott, Heil and Bruce are equally matched in depicting the complicated 15-year history between the men. Singling out any of them is a disservice to how well they work with each other. The actors hold the attention of theatregoers whether conversing or narrating their inner thoughts.
As in normal conversations, the people in Art speak about sensitive topics without always revealing their true feelings. Reza gives the Parisians monologues in which the men discuss their opinions about numerous events in the 85-minute evening. Intrepid Producing Artistic Director Christy Yael-Cox stages the speeches similar to being at a mellow open mic night. There is a soothing atmosphere to the way she directs the segments.
Contributing significantly are Sherrice Mojgani's lighting and Kevin Anthenill's original music. Their relaxing contributions allow the solo discussions to have a haunting effect. Michael McKeon's set turns Serge's home into a metaphorical boxing ring. Harsh language and comically heated arguments occur at the apartment.
When audiences are not laughing at the story, they'll likely be thinking about the themes that Reza sets up. She asks tough questions about emotional damage, the impact of strange feuds, and why people start to lose respect for others. The comedic rage that grows feels earned, because Reza takes the time to develop the compadres before the issues get out of control.
Art kicks off Reza month with frequent hilarity and canny observations about flawed camaraderie. It is the kind of night that should leave San Diegans reflecting on their own views on aesthetics as well as jeopardized bonds of friendship.
Intrepid Theatre Company presents Art through November 6, 2016. Performs through Saturdays at 444 Fourth Ave, San Diego. Tickets start at $38.00 and can be purchased online at www.intrepidtheatre.org or by phone at 188-71-TICKETS.