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BWW Review: Yasmina Reza's ART at SF Playhouse

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Art continues on demand October 24 - November 7, 2020.

BWW Review: Yasmina Reza's ART at SF Playhouse

Art

By Yasmina Reza

Translated by Christopher Hampton

Directed by Bill English

SF Playhouse

24 October 2020

One friend's purchase of an expensive painting is the catalyst for darkly comic examination of friendships and how easily the bonds can be stretched and broken. Yasmina Reza's sharp, clever script is delivered by three outstanding actors to create a searing metaphor on the deep divisions in our nation. Originally produced in 1994, Art went on to win the Molière Award for Best Author and the 1998 Tony Award for Best Play. SF Playhouse's Bill English directs this digital presentation with multiple camera angles and a minimalist set that allow the stellar cast to mine the dialogue for all its gold.

BWW Review: Yasmina Reza's ART at SF Playhouse
The cast of 'Art' at San Francisco Playhouse: Serge (Johnny Moreno), Marc (Jomar Tagatac), and Yvan (Bobak Bakhtiari).

Kudos to SF Playhouse for receiving the approval to perform this amazing piece and assembling a cast more than capable of realizing Reza's complex characters. The actors must convey years of friendship and a sense of comfort even as the confrontations, which become quite vicious, ratchet up. Marc (Jomar Tagatac) and Serge (Johnny Moreno) are at Serge's monochromatic apartment - grey chairs and a grey wall. Serge has something to show Marc and he is overly enthused. It's a painting he bought from a fashionable modern artist and he cannot wait to get Marc's reaction.

BWW Review: Yasmina Reza's ART at SF Playhouse
Serge (Johnny Moreno, right) shows off his new painting to Marc (Jomar Tagatac, left).

Here's where everything turns. Marc in his comfortable honesty, looks at the white square and says it's a piece of shit. Worse, Serge paid 200K for the piece which blows Marc's mind. Two perspectives on the value of art become apparent - the work makes you happy or it's an act of aesthete snobbery. Both friends seem incredulous at the others position and a line is drawn in the sand.

Enter Yvan (Bobak Cyrus Bakhtiari), a third friend who's seen as the fool for his eccentric nature. Lately he's overwhelmed by his impending marriage and the associated family complications. He sees the painting and doesn't really have a strong opinion. He 'understands' the system behind it and is open-minded about the purchase. This pits Marc against both his friends, but his anger is mostly directed at best friend Serge. Accusations of being atrophied and losing your sense of humor are the kindest of the barbs thrown throughout this piece.

Of course, the painting is just the straw that breaks the back of these three friends. It's the pretense to delve into the simple triggers that can cleave a friendship and expose the weaknesses in the bonds. Reza reveals the root causes of the conflicts in deeply emotional confessions, buoyed by some tour de force acting by the trio. The dialogue is not quite as harsh as Albee's Who's Afraid of Virginia Wolff but is equally powerful with touches of sympathy to lift the mood.

BWW Review: Yasmina Reza's ART at SF Playhouse
Yvan (Bobak Bakhtiari) and Marc (Jomar Tagatac) discuss their friend's unexpected purchase.

Bill English does a fine job of directing this digital production capturing the actor's expressions and their reactions. You can empathize with Tagatac's exacerbation at his friend's seemingly ridiculous purchase, Serge's defense of his right to do what he wants and Bakhtiari's sad sack middleman. The play is a metaphor for recognizing the differences between us and promoting tolerance and sensitivity and is a digital success for SF Playhouse's 2020/21 season.

Art continues on demand October 24 - November 7, 2020. Streaming video at sfplayhouse.org or may contact the San Francisco Playhouse box office at 415-677-9596, or online at https://www.sfplayhouse.org/sfph/2020-2021-season/art/


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From This Author Steve Murray