BWW Reviews: SET Examines 'ART' From Multiple Angles
When did simple differences of opinion become so contentious? Politics and religion are understandably touchy subjects, but take a stand on the quality of the latest blockbuster or Team Edward vs. Team Jacob and certain people react like you've desecrated their grandmother's grave.
It's easy to point fingers at the perceived security and anonymity of social media, but Yasmina Reza's 'Art', which premiered during the dawn of the Information Age in 1994, suggests the tendency goes back further than that. The play is less about whether or not the white-on-white painting purchased by connoisseur Serge for an impressive sum qualifies as "art," but what the discussion on the subject brings out in a trio of old friends. Modernist Serge and classicist Marc are both intellectuals so confident in their own judgments that they cannot hear them contradicted without considering it a personal attack. Eventually the debate (into which their conciliatory friend Yvan is unwillingly drawn) devolves into personal attacks and intense evaluation of the roles and presumptions upon which their friendship has been based.
In keeping with the play's theme of differing perspectives, each of the three actors has been cast as two of the play's characters, alternating roles with each performance. A cunning ploy to get audiences to buy tickets for a second showing? Perhaps, but one of the most valuable aspects of live theatre is seeing what different performers can bring out of a certain part, so the indulgence is well justified. On Saturday's showing Emory John Collinson displayed an eagerness and sincere passion for his pursuits as Serge, giving the character an approachable, likable quality in spite of his lingering air of pretentiousness. Likewise, Aaron Jennejahn infused the sardonic Marc with a courage of conviction which lends weight to his flippant evaluation of Serge's prize ("It's a piece of sh*t," he declares succinctly). It is easy to see where each character is coming from, even as you can see the flaws in their rigid, unyielding stances. As the man caught in the middle, Matt Radcliffe was amusingly dorky as Yvan, and his breathless, hysterical monologue about disastrous wedding preparations was the highlight among the production's many witty turns of dialogue.
At other performances, the roles of Serge, Marc, and Yvan are played by Jennejahn, Radcliffe, and Collinson respectively, and the talent in the cast makes one eager to see different perspectives on the three roles. Seeing the performance from different seats may help too, as certain moments are staged in the corners of the space, making for some tricky sightlines.
If art is that which provokes discussion and reflection, than Serge's white canvas definitely qualifies, and so does SET's presentation of Reza's insightful comedy. 'ART' plays at the Springs Ensemble Theatre now through August 17th, Thursdays through Saturdays at 7:30pm and Sundays at 4:00pm. For tickets, contact the box office at 719-357-3080 or visit www.springsensembletheatre.org.