Friends should not gossip about each other. If they do, rest assured ‘- the friendship is in trouble.
In the play ‘Art,’ performed at USU’s Plaza Del Sol Performance Hall on Wednesday, the stage went dark and under spotlight, one-by-one, the three characters did just that. The play, which revolves around a piece of ‘art,’ is mostly about friendship. That friendship is threatened by the seemingly harmless presence of a completely blank canvas asserted to be a masterpiece by Serge, who pays an astonishing 200,000 francs for it.
A closer look reveals that perhaps those three men, implicitly middle-aged, had grown apart. Instead of facing it, they continually argue about the object.
Directed and produced by the actors Jozben Barrett, who played the character ‘Yvan,’ Gerron Beadle, ‘Marc’ and Johathon Freeman-Anderson, ‘Serge,’ the play was the English-adaptation translated from French by Christopher Hampton. Written by Yasmina Reza, it originally premiered 15 years ago in Paris.
The main conflict revolves around Marc, a very intense and animated character, and Serge, who continuously and pretentiously claims the painting is not blank but, in fact, contains off-white lines. Marc says the painting is ‘shit’ and not worth the exorbitant price tag. Serge talks down to him: ‘How can you assert that any object, which conforms to laws you don’t understand, is shit?’
Yvan, on the other hand, disagrees with neither friend and at one point, while trying to break up a fist fight between them, gets hurt and whines plenty about it. The fight scene got the most laughs from the half-full audience in the theater, which holds about 500. Marc absolutely hates the painting and expresses it very bluntly, but his reaction to it makes it apparent that something deeper disturbs him.
In a revealing scene about halfway into the play, Marc mentions that some time ago Serge told him there was nothing special about him.
‘I should have punched him and while he lay half-dead, I should have asked, ‘What kind of friend are you that you don’t think I’m special?” Marc says.
That scene encompasses the general thrust of ‘Art,’ one in which every action has a greater subtext. The comedic surface of the play was almost completely filled with what appeared to be simple humorous platitudes, but the uproar over such an innocuous object reveals themes of loneliness and abandonment.
The painting does not simply represent pretentious sentiment and the ideological divide between postmodernist art and more traditional forms, but a man trying to fill a void in his life left empty by his friends, whose changing lives and romantic relationships leave him feeling isolated and irrelevant.
It was funny, extremely well written and performed, and its depth provides cerebral gratification. Yet it lacked a certain something ‘- perhaps relevance to a college-age audience.
Admission was free while after the show it was announced donations would be accepted. Stephanie Alkazian, 21, president of Theatre Guild, said Associated Students provided a small budget of $600 and the donations would help to present more plays. ‘They put on this with basically no sets, very limited lighting and what can we do if we have more money? We can do a lot more.’