Anyone who has ever questioned the motives of someone who buys an expensive and questionable “work of art” will identify with the bafflement expressed by Marc (Mark Phialas), one of the central characters in Yasmina Reza’s “Art,” directed by Jesse Gephart and onstage now at Raleigh Little Theatre. Marc’s friend, Serge (Chris Brown), has just spent a considerable (read ridiculous) amount of money on an all-white painting, a fact that greatly offends Marc. In fact, it offends him enough to cause the slow unraveling of their longstanding friendship and to bring the duo’s mutual friend, Yvan (Kevin Leonard), smack-dab in the middle of the chaos.
At the heart of this piece, however, is not pretentious works of art and their astonishing price tags. No, “Art” is about the little intricacies that make up a friendship or a relationship of any kind and about the delicate balances of power and control that must be maintained or acceptably altered for these relationships to survive. Gephart’s direction, as usual, is tight, and the three leads give solid performances. Leonard’s turn as the bumbling, eager-to-please Yvan is particularly notable; his character and ingratiating manner provide much of the show’s comedy; one very long monologue/rant, delivered perfectly by Leonard, serves as the comedic highlight of the performance.
While Reza’s writing can bet a bit “talky”—the long, often repetitive discussions wear on the viewer after a while—the RLT production does everything it can to downplay this flaw. Set designer Thomas Mauney curtails some of the monotony with his intriguing and appropriately bland set which serves as the apartment of the three characters; Mauney cleverly utilizes a vastly different piece of art, projected onto the wall, to make clear the transition from one character’s apartment to the next. “Art” does wear thin after a while, beating its message home a little too clearly, but there is enough entertainment in this production to make up for it.
Raleigh Little Theatre presents ART at 8 p.m. Sept. 19-21, 3 p.m. Sept. 22, 8 p.m. Sept. 26-28, and 3 p.m. Sept. 29 in RLT‘s Cantey V. Sutton Theatre, 301 Pogue St., Raleigh, North Carolina 27607.
TICKETS: $20 ($16 students and seniors 62+). BOX OFFICE: 919-821-3111 or https://raleighlittletheatre.secure.force.com/.
NEWS RELEASE: http://raleighlittletheatre.org/press/art.html.
2013-14 SEASON: http://raleighlittletheatre.org/shows/13-14/index.html.
NOTE 1: All shows are wheelchair accessible, and assistive-listening devices are available for all shows.
NOTE 2: Before the 8 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 26th, show there will be a wine tasting, starting at 6:30 p.m. and co-sponsored by Raleigh Little Theatre and the N.C. Museum of Art Contemporaries. Parlez-Vous Crepe’s gourmet food truck will serve food from 6 to 8 p.m. outside the theater, and The Wine Feed. will furnish the French wines for the preshow tasting. For details, click http://raleighlittletheatre.org/events/youngprofnight.html.
Art (1994 play): http://www.dramatists.com/cgi-bin/db/single.asp?key=2778 (Dramatists Play Service, Inc.) and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/%27Art%27_%28play%29 (Wikipedia).
The Script: http://books.google.com/ (Google Books).
Study Guide: http://www.bard.org/education/studyguides/Art/art.html (Utah Shakespeare Festival).
Art (2003 TV movie): http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0360381/ (Internet Movie Database).
Yasmina Reza (playwright): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yasmina_Reza (Wikipedia).
Jesse R. Gephart (director): https://www.facebook.com/jrgephart (Facebook bio).