Not long after my beloved and I arrived in Manhattan to begin a theatre career, we started to explore the city. We had miraculously secured a third floor studio apartment with a patio situated above the second floor apartment below us. It was snug, we loved it, and it was a half a block off Central Park on 68th Street. We could just barely afford it. But I had my Equity card and managed to land a part in a show. One of the places we went to see was the Guggenheim Museum across the park. It was showing a retrospective of the paintings of Ilya Bolotowski. Some of the canvasses frankly made us laugh. We were naive and just didn’t get it, especially the ones that were variations of white on white. My impish flat mate took it upon herself to paint the six-foot wall separating the “living room” from the “bedroom” where we slept in a loft we constructed with a little desk aria below. The painting showed a yellow “sky” above a blue “sea” with a large circle representing a “sun”above the sea. A small bird could be seen part way into the sun and sky. She signed it “Ilya Bolotowski” in the lower right hand corner. It was really well done. It made us laugh, and we always wondered what the landlord thought of it after we moved up two blocks to Seventieth Street.
When we saw the virtual play, Art, by Yasmina Reza, we couldn’t help but recall that time in our lives. Three close, longtime friends become unravelled when Serge (Brent Schindele), a wealthy art lover, displays a large canvas four feet by five feet that is white. Just white. His friend Marc (Michael Uribes), is at first astounded, then hostile when he learns that Serge has paid €200,000 for the painting. Serge sees sophistication in the work; Marc sees idiotic foolishness. Their bickering soon becomes vicious. A third friend, Ivan (Brian Stanton), a gentle wistful sort of man who is on the brink of marriage enters and suddenly becomes enmeshed in the argument. In scientific terms, if Serge is positive and Marc is negative, then Ivan is the unfortunate neutral who gets ground up in the conflict.
As the sudden feud between Serge and Marc boils up, the fragile Ivan suffers in angst over the fighting between them. His situation is compounded by family conflicts over his impending marriage. This becomes fodder for Serge and Marc and their hostility, which ratchets up the situation until Ivan explodes in a semi-comic finale, which then deflates into a satisfying dénoument. Folks, this is hostile comedy of the highest order.
With Art, Yasmina Reza has crafted a tight, cunning, sophisticated situation comedy that won well deserved awards—the 1994 Molière Award for Best Author, Best Play and Best Production; the 1998 Laurence Olivier Award for Best Comedy; and the 1998 Tony for Best Play.
Art, directed and produced by caryn desai [sic] is presented by International City Theatre, with translation by Christopher Hampton; costume designs by Kim DeShazo; projections and sound by Dave Mickey; props by Patty Briles; Wigs by Anthony Gagliardi and video editing by Mike Bradecich.
Art streams February 18 through March 7 every Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday (dark Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays). Tickets are $30 per household. Tickets available for purchase now at www.InternationalCityTheatre.org.