Monday, October 3, 2016

Intrepid's Art

Charlene Baldridge
Photo by Ken Howard
Yasmina Reza’s Art produced by Intrepid

What if your best friend spent $200,000 on an all-white painting by Antrios, a trendy modern artist? What if you told him you think he was “had,” and furthermore, told him the truth about the painting as you see it?

Serge (Jason Heil), the purchaser, is a Parisian dermatologist and apparently does very well. Recently divorced, he lives in a rather starkly furnished apartment with a view of the city. An aeronautical engineer, Marc (Daren Scott), who mocks Serge’s purchase, fears his friend of 15 years is slipping away from him aesthetically and hopes to enlist support from a third friend, the soon-to-be wed Yvan (Jacob Bruce). The least complicated of the three, Yvan is affable and conciliatory, even when dealing with his bride-to-be and her female relatives and his, who are warring about wedding details. 

Yvan tries to ameliorate the rift between Marc and Serge. Things have not gone well for Yvan, who is reduced to selling stationery (for his bride’s uncle, no less), having had his own business in the past.

Over the course of the 85-minute play, deftly cast and directed by Christy Yael-Cox, the three men battle petulantly (in pairs and eventually all together in a hilarious knock-down ) and incessantly, set on a course to destroy whatever camaraderie they enjoyed previously. Because of their long term friendship, they truly know how to push one another’s buttons to comedic effect. The questions that come most strongly to the fore are: whatever needs and rewards attracted them to each other in the first place, kept them together through various life events, and the relevance of these relationships now – All of these fervent explorations seem set in motion by the purchase of the painting.
Heil, Bruce and Scott
Photo: Courtesy of Intrepid Theatre

This is an exceptionally funny, intellectually stimulating play, an examination of the cryptic disagreements between three expressive men, and the underlying issues that are raised by the schism. The play was greeted with acclaim and numerous awards. Having seen it thrice now, I can say much depends upon the actors’ subtlety and almost imperceptible gifts. This is a production in which the lift of an eyebrow may cause gales of laughter.

Heil is wonderfully awkward; Scott, fabulously arch without being outright unlikable (“The older I get, the more offensive I hope to be”); and Bruce, understated, at least until he launches a masterfully delivered, bravura, 11th hour speech. The denouement is outrageous and unexpected, and, as I’ve opined before, the play goes on a bit longer than necessary, presenting a coda that consists of more of Reza’s frequently employed direct address. Nonetheless, it’s a brilliantly constructed play and its language is excellent.

Heil, Bruce and Scott

Photo: Courtesy of Intrepid Theatre

Yael-Cox is to be lauded for envisioning these particular actors in these particular roles, for directing them superbly, and for hiring the right production team to support her vision: scenic designer Michael McKeon; lighting designer Sherrice Mojgani; costume designer Jeanne Reith; sound designer Kevin Anthenill, who also composed original music; and fight director Brian Byrnes.

The play was originally written in French and after premiering in Paris (1994) was translated by Christopher Hampton into English for the London (1996) production and into American English for the Broadway (1998) production, which received a Tony for best play.

See Art at the Horton Grand Theatre through November 6.

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