Susan Granger’s review of “Art” (Westport Country Playhouse: May, 2016)
The psychological and emotional dynamics of friendship are examined in French playwright Yasmina Reza’s Tony-winning comedy, which is playing in tandem with “Red” at the Westport Country Playhouse.
When Serge (John Skelly) buys an expensive abstract painting, he invites his two best friends, Marc (Benton Greene) and Yvan (Sean Dugan), to view it.
Measuring about 4’x5,’ the stark painting is monochromatic white-on-white; although a fictional artist is cited, it’s obviously meant to be the work of Robert Ryman.
Marc arrives first – and he is stunned that Serge, who is a successful dermatologist but by no means wealthy, spent 200 Euros on it. Smug and sardonic, Marc is dismissive of the artist and his vision.
Amiable Ivan’s reaction is far more diplomatic and less denigrating, perhaps because he’s far more concerned with the invitations for his upcoming wedding.
But neither are as understanding and compassionate as Serge had hoped after his huge expenditure, basically questioning his sensitivity and aesthetic taste.
Admirably structured by director Mark Lamos, the three accomplished actors display solid comic timing, make it superficially amusing, utilizing vigorous language. But below the surface, this play is filled with provocative ideas and observations.
Most of all, it’s revelatory about our appreciation of art which, in turn, is a reflection of our often-confusing culture in which the art world is propelled by money and power.
The audience is asked to ponder, “What is art”? Is it the universal legibility, which abstractionists strive for, or should it be more familiar and representational?
Does Serge really adore the painting? Or did he purchase it as a status symbol?
Unfortunately, since the personalities of the three men seem so diverse, it’s difficult to imagine why they became friends in the first place. Since no cohesive connective tissue among them is ever revealed, it’s difficult to invest any emotional energy in the viability of their relationship.
This month, “Art” will be performed on even-numbered days; “Red” on the odd-numbered days. For more information and tickets, go to www.playhouse.org or call 203-227-4177.