Friendships Put to the Test in ART

Whoever said that mockery is the sincerest form of flattery must have been an unmentioned friend of the characters in Yasmina Reza’s Art.

First premiering in Paris in 1994, Art explores the friendship of three men after one of them purchases an abstract painting.

Art has been adapted and translated in many languages since its premiere at the Comédie des Champs-Élysées. The most notable translation by Christopher Hampton won the Tony Award for Best Play in 1998.

The play opens with Marc (Byron Jennings) expressing his frustration with his friend Serge’s newest acquisition. Serge (Preston Campbell) has spent a significant amount of money on an art piece, which in Marc’s mind is a picture of—essentially—nothing. Add to the mix, mutual friend Yvan (Juan Isler) who is
initially brought in to referee, and the dynamic becomes contentious.

Each character’s personal opinions often supersedes empathy, at times bringing their choices into question.

Burning Coal’s production of Art is one filled with strong performances. The actors make definitive choices and provide palpable chemistry between the characters. However, this chemistry is sometimes marred by Director Kenneth Hinton. The most notable of Hinton’s questionable choices is the decision to remove and replace the artwork as a means to differentiate different living spaces. Instead, this direction feels confusing and haphazard. In addition, despite a sizable thrust stage, set pieces are awkwardly positioned and become obstacles.

Matthew Alderson’s lighting design decently highlights actors. Reza’s script is filled with asides (monologues) to the audience, most of which are highlighted by Alderson’s adequate lighting design. Elena Mulligan’s costumes augment the story by also distinguishing the personality of each of the characters.

Reza’s comedic take on friendship and the chemistry between these performers certainly make for an enjoyable live theatre experience, perhaps better than via live stream.

The Burning Coal Theatre production of Art runs through February 13. For more information visit https://burningcoal.org/.

For a complete listing of Triangle Theater Events, visit our Triangle Theater Calendar.

To hear more about Art, watch Juan Isler’s Preview. Isler is the Board Chair for Beltline to Broadway, host of Previews, and TORN.

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