By Richard Pacheco
“Art” currently at 2nd Story is s smart, funny, vibrant play brought vividly to life by an exceptional cast with great interactions and sheer chemistry. “Art” is a play by Yasmina Reza that premiered in 1994 in Paris. The English-language adaptation, translated by Christopher Hampton, opened in London’s West End on 15 October 1996, starring Albert Finney, Tom Courtenay and Ken Stott and ran for eight years. It opened in New York in 1998 and was awarded the Tony for best play and the best actor award went to Alfred Molina.
The production at2nd Story is energetic and funny propelled by some terrific acting and great cast chemistry. It revolves around an massively priced totally white painting which evokes considerable controversy between a group of friends including the man who bought it, the painting’s main detractor and another friend who finds himself in the middle of this artistic battle of worth. The paining is stark white with evidently subtle variations. Is there something more there in the painting? What it evokes between the friends is not merely a battle over the painting’s worth or aesthetic value, but reveals much deeper wounds.
In the resulting production the laughter is relentless and nearly non-stop. It begins with the purchase and with Marc’s often smarmy, condescending disgust with the painting, minimizing its monetary and aesthetic value. It is Serge who bought the painting and then mutual friend Yvan comes into the picture and vacillates back and forth between liking it and not.
Ed Shea, who also directs is Marc, who is the epitome of artistic condescension and aloof nastiness. He is vividly clear in hits distaste for the painting and the huge price his friend paid for it. Marc has a nasty streak that transcends all bonds of friendship, and he is determined to make his opinion clear with unmistakable haughty bite that oozes disdain from every pore. Shea is a delight, plunging through this with vigor and conviction and he comes across as the epitome of vitriolic nastiness.
Luis Astudillo as Serge is confident in his purchase, not only of its monetary value but its artistic one as well. He is proud of his choice and willing to defend it against all comers including his friend Marc. Serge is well off, and confident in his own ability to decide what to buy and its value. Astudillo is confident and convincing with a deft and funny performance. It is a delight.
Finally there is Kevin Broccoli as Yvan, who vacillates from g the painting. Concerned by his personal life which is going to hell in a hand basket and his wedding plans take weird twists and turn and seem to be going kaput. He is only day away from being married and the infighting between his parents and stepparents are battling to the death over various details with relentless determination and sheer selfishness. Broccoli is wonderful, delivering a masterful performance full of just the right touches and loaded with humor which he extracts to perfection during some monologues.
Shea directs with a light touch, very minimalist and right on the mark. It is a terrific directing job. It runs 70 minutes without intermission. These three actors deliver with flair and finesse. They are uproarious and vastly entertaining and well as able to show a deeper level of issues going on underneath the surface. “Art” runs through May 21 at 2nd Story, 28 Market St., Warren. Tickets are $25 and $35. For more information, go to www.2ndstorytheatre.com or call (401) 247-4200.