Yasmina Reza’s Tony award-winning play, ART, opens the International City Theatre’s thirty-sixth season – virtually. A French playwright, novelist, and actress known for her satiric twists – exemplified by her savage, often caustic “God of Carnage” – Yasmina Reza received two Moliere Awards, France’s most prestigious drama prize, and Broadway’s Tony for best new play. After a six-year run in London, ART has finally come to Southern California. Translated from the French by playwright/screenwriter Christopher Hampton, ART explores the meaning of art – and friendship – when three long-time pals find themselves disagreeing about modern art, the politics of aesthetics, and even creativity itself.
When Serge (Brent Schindele) buys a painting by little known artist Andreos for $200,000, he excitedly contacts his best buddies, Marc (Michael Uribes) and Yvan (Brian Stanton), to share his triumph. But they don’t seem nearly as delighted about the purchase as he is. Perhaps their lack of enthusiasm has something to do his masterpiece, three white nearly invisible stripes on a large white canvas. Opinions become the grist for the mill – opinions about both the painting and the man who paid a very large sum of money for it. Individual tastes – and personality quirks – soon come to the fore as the three men begin to snap and snipe at each other, or lamely agree that this is truly the perfect painting. Their discussions soon devolve into gossipy, snarky digs, feints, and daggers – all to the amusement of the audience. Human nature is on display in ART – with all its faults, foibles – and chuckles.
ART is the perfect Zoom production. Each of the three principals has his own frame, much like the canvas in question. The acting trio do an excellent job of bringing to life author Reza’s words, often comic and certainly realistic as they tap into the anxieties – hilarious and otherwise – of friends on the cusp of controversy. While the laughs flow, the audience members may also feel a moment of discomfort and even guilt as they relate to the underlying truth in ART’s world. Director desai skillfully manages to draw the actors from casual to emotional, just the right touch for ART, a play which taps into the many dynamics involved in a relationship. Have you ever noticed how arguments with those close to you often go from theoretical to personal – and confrontational – in a heartbeat? ART asks how much a painting is worth. At the same time, it delves into how much a friendship is worth, warts and all.
The setting is bland, modern, and unobtrusive, also perfect for the nature of the tale. The creative team behind the streaming version of ART includes Dave Mickey (projections and sound designer), Kim DeShazo (costume designer), Anthony Gagliardi (wig designer) and video editor (Mike Bradecich).
ART is a production which will appeal to anyone who has ever had a close friend, a friend with whom disagreements might become both confrontational and disturbing. This is a highly verbal play which relies on words to project the message. As such, this production is lucky to have an excellent director and cast to keep the story fresh and moving along. As it turns out, ART also does very well in the streamed format.
ART streams on demand from February 18 through March 7, 2021, on every Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Tickets are $30 per household. For information and reservations, go online.