BWW Reviews: ART is Funny and Thought-Provoking
Currently playing at Raleigh Little Theatre, Art, by Yasmina Reza, is making audiences laugh while asking important philosophical questions about the very nature of art.
Art is the story of three friends - Serge, Yvan, and Marc - and their lives following Serge's purchase of an expensive painting. The art purchase is the catalyst for debates which leap from the topic of art to the gentlemen's friendship itself. The painting is controversial for two reasons. The first is the price Serge paid for it: 200,000 francs. The second is that the painting is white - just white. It's a white canvas with a little bit of white paint.
Art asks the question, "why is some art valuable?" It also asks how we assign monetary value to art. The three gentlemen in the play represent three compelling and real ways to approach the idea of art and monetary value. There's Serge, the painting's purchaser, who readily accepts that the painting is great and valuable art because it's fashionable. Then there's Marc, the polar opposite, who refuses to accept that white paint on a white canvas has any substance or merit. Lastly, there's Yvan, who is not convinced that the painting has great artistic merit, but is not ready to dismiss it without giving it thorough thought. Don't let the storyline fool you - despite the real philosophical underpinnings and thought-provoking themes, Art is funny. It plays on real-life personalities with which everyone is familiar and to which everyone can relate, to offer very accessible humor amid a more esoteric philosophical realm.
In this production, one set is used to represent the three different apartments, with the change being indicated by, fittingly, what's hanging on the wall. The set is smartly designed and well-constructed, and the real prop elements - actual Perrier and ice, etc. - are a nice touch.
Art focuses largely on theory and conversation, so there's not a lot of "built-in" action. Director Jesse R. Gephardt is able to flesh out the text with purposeful blocking. Though some scenes are less active than others, most keep the audience's attention well. In one scene, Yvan gives a very long monologue about his impending wedding, which had audience members shaking with laughter, and even garnered some mid-show applause. The small cast of three actors work well together under Gephardt's direction. Overall, the show is a funny, thought-provoking, thoroughly interesting evening of theater.
Art runs through September 29. For tickets and more information, please visit www.raleighlittletheatre.org.
Photo credit: Curtis Brown.