Art is in the eye of the beholder. To the proud mother, the sketches on the refrigerator gallery are as priceless as the Van Gogh sold for millions. It is not so much what makes an object art as the absurdity of its value that is the central conflict of Yasmina Reza's award-winning play, Art. A biting comedy in a brisk 80 minutes, Art is a tale of three friends and their battle for the validation of their viewpoint and to make their friendship survive Art.
The artwork at the center of the conflict is a large painting. This painting is five feet by four, painted white with thin white diagonal lines incorporated into it. A man, Serge (John Lescault), has purchased this painting, by a famous artist for the sum of 200,000 francs. Serge carries the viewpoint of the modern art lover. Only Serge can inherently see the greatest of this painting. His friend, Marc (Mitchell Hebert) represents those to whom it would be perfectly clear that simply slapping white paint on a white canvas does not automatically qualify it to be worth more than the sum of its parts and the labor necessary to execute the work. Thrust into the middle of this intellectual exercise is the meek Yvan (Michael Russotto) who represents that friend we all know who takes the viewpoint of whomever is nearby hoping to bridge the chasm of his friends and be the peacemaker.
The witty translation by Christopher Hampton is deftly handled by all three actors, veterans of many DC area stages. Each actor well-embodies his role gaining and losing the audience's sympathy along the way. The sleekly modern set design by James Kronzer is well complimented by the lighting design of Mark Lanks. The costumes by Kathleen Geldard are functional, yet compliment the personalities of the characters. Director Matthew Gardiner steers the play along its absurdist course with a sure hand.
Art by Yasmina Reza, translated by Christopher Hampton was performed in Signature Theatre's Arc performance space from March 29 through May 22, 2011. For information on upcoming performances at Signature Theater please visit www.signature-theatre.org