Art By Yasmina Reza
Translated by Christopher Hampton
Directed by Marian Mantovani
Random Magic Theatre presented at Sleuth’s Mystery Dinner Theatre
What would your best friend have to do to drive you away? Hit you? Steal you mate? Vote for the wrong politico? Cheer on the wrong team? In Paris, purchasing an expensive and incomprehensible painting is a start. Serge (Toby Pruett) has a nice medical practice and a no close family, so he can pop for a major piece of Modern Art. His engineer friend Marc (Greg Cartwright) doesn’t see the appeal of a large white canvas, and Yvan (Kenny Babel) doesn’t care either way, he’s getting married to the bride from hell so he can keep his low paying job selling stationary. As we grind thorough the arguments, Marc can’t seem to grasp modernism, while Serge recognizes that Marc “hasn’t done the apprenticeship” so it’s no wonder he’s a philistine. Yvan couldn’t care less; he has dueling step-mothers and can’t get the wedding invitation to his fiancés satisfaction. He has no time for art, there’s a guillotine waiting just outside.
While Marc’s arguments seem unreasonable, there’s a raw, class based humor in this Guy’s Play. Pruett is filled with bon homme and if it doesn’t sound like I’m sucking up, I thought the painting was actually kinda cool, but maybe not $200k cool. Babel has the best monolog, he flies on stage with his ass aflame and delivers 7 minutes of pure mother-in-law humor, while smug Cartwright eventually wears himself down and admits, well, maybe, if he could “help” the artist a bit, he, too can find meaning in a wall of white. Hey, look, it’s a man skiing down a hill in a snowstorm!
While the audience was small, the little theatre off the Sleuths gift shop was a perfect space for the show: it felt like a nice Parisian apartment near a trendy metro stop. A helpful guide in the program aided us with thumbnail post modern, feminist, rationalist, and a few other interpretations for the show. While there’s a strong European class element in the conflict and resolution, I see this as an examination of the limits of friendship, and how we negotiate socially acceptable behaviors amongst ourselves. Tonight’s negotiation ended happily, but that’s not always the case. Our lives are littered with old friends who drifted off somehow, and that’s why we must keep negotiating new ones – who can say what awful habits you and I picked up, and can’t shake?
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