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Art at the Gladstone theatre + ticket giveaway

By Brian Carroll on May 27, 2014

80 minutes (no intermission) | Drama | Mature content

What is Art? For example, is a meat dress Art? The public can be very passionate and blunt expressing opinions about this question. (As are the characters in Yamina Reza’s play Art.) But there are subtexts to these public debates. The debates become particularly heated when the art in question is publicly funded. Is the issue Art itself, or public funding for the arts?

“I could hear your laugh.” said a friend after the show.

“I only laugh when it’s funny.”

The characters even made me laugh at the following line:

“Read Seneca.”

Seriously! How can that possibly be funny? But they made me laugh. And the rest of the audience as well. More than once.

I laughed a lot, But Art is not a comedy.

There are times when playwright Yasmina Reza’s words cut like razors. The audience holds its breath, waiting for the reaction. Did he really say that? Omigod, he really said that! What will the other character(s) do?

The ostensible title piece is an expensive piece of modern art. A canvas painted in white. On white. Within white.

The painting puts three best friends in conflict, threatening their 15-year-old friendship. At first blush, the arguments seem to be about art itself: classical versus modern, representational versus abstract, commercial versus amateur.

But the arguments quickly slip from the intellectual to the personal.

Serge has dropped more than a year’s income on a modern, abstract painting. One of his best friends, Marc, is appalled that he has spent such serious coin on a “piece of white shit”, stinging Serge to his core. Independently they call on mutual friend, Yvan, to bolster their opinions. But Yvan’s clumsy attempts at reconciliation, plus his self-absorption in the fraught family dynamics of his impending marriage, only makes things worse.

The level of vituperation between the three friends indicate that this conflict is about MUCH more than the role of art in contemporary society.

These men can be so cutting, so cruel to each other, both openly and behind their backs. What is the gravity that has kept them together for 15 years? Why has this dark energy entered their lives to scatter them apart?

The old attractions that brought these friends together are falling by the wayside. Marc was originally Serge’s mentor in things cultural, for example introducing Serge to the writing of Paul Valéry. Yvan is a class clown, the eccentric who makes Serge and Marc laugh.

But through dialogue, plus monologues to the audience, the characters reveal that the real tensions have nothing to do with art. Serge’s purchase of the painting is an act of independence that disturbs Marc greatly. Yvan’s impending marriage threatens his clown status in the trio, as he chooses responsibility over eccentricity.

Reza’s words are important, but the reactions to those words: facial expressions, body language are even more so. Robert Marinier’s (Serge) facial expressions speak volumes. Andy Massingham’s (Yvan) physical movements amplify not only his own words, but also those of the other characters. David Frisch’s (Marc) brash cynicism reveals his confusion in reaction to changes beyond his control.

The audience responds to these performances. At one point, Yvan bursts on stage. Before his friends can remonstrate with him for being so late they’ve missed the movie they were all to see, he launches into a monologue about his trials in the preparations for his upcoming marriage.

The audience broke into spontaneous applause.

Under Peter James Haworth’s (first time) direction, the characters are always reacting to each other. As with Reza’s God of Carnage, the script is quick-paced, taking twists and turns at a moment’s notice. But what really makes this production sparkle is the acting. Whether speaking or reacting, Frisch, Marinier and Massingham are all on their game. Only when they are off stage, or in black out when David Magladry’s spot lighting isolates them from another characters monologue, does Haworth allow them to pause. Strong performances from all three.

Each character in Art has his foibles. No one stands out as the hero of the piece. But each has his attractions for the audience: Serge has his passion, Marc his intellect, Yvan his humour.

In spite of the fact that their quarrels bring out their deep, darker sides, the audience gets drawn to these characters. They care about these three men. There is a moment in the play so audacious that the audience collectively gasps in surprise. You won’t find this experience sitting in your TV room, folks. This is the power of live theatre.

‘Art’ is an ambitious undertaking for a young theatre company like Same Day Theatre. (Their previous two productions were In the Next Room, or the vibrator play which won Outstanding Professional Production at the Prix Rideau Awards, and Ethan Claymore.) In spite of the play’s long performance records in Paris, London and New York, it is rarely performed in Ottawa.

Same Day has risen to the challenge, producing a tight performance that engages the audience with wit, energy, surprising plot twists and exciting acting.

This is a special opportunity, Ottawa. Enjoy!

Apt613 is pleased to announce we have two tickets to giveaway to one lucky reader. The tickets can be used for any remaining performance. To enter, send an email to apartment613 [at] gmail [dot] com with “Art” in the subject header. A random draw will be done on Wednesday, May 28th at noon.

‘Art’ by Same Day Theatre is playing at the Gladstone Theatre until June 8th. Tuesdays to Saturdays at 7:30PM. Saturday and Sunday matinees at 2:30PM. Adult tickets are $34 (including HST). Senior tickets are $30. Student/Artist/Unwaged tickets are $20.

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