Theater Review – ‘Art’ 
Monday, January 14, 2019 at 9:57PM
.

 

Theater Review – ‘Art’ 
Produced by Theatre Three – Port Jefferson
Reviewed by Jeb Ladouceur

I don’t recall why I missed the Broadway premier of the French comedy ‘Art’ in 1998. It must have been a brutal February weather-wise, because this play, which deals with peoples’ diverse notions of what constitutes fine art …  is (full disclosure) the sort of production I can’t get enough of.

In retrospect, however, maybe it’s better that I missed the Tony-winning show at New York’s Royale playhouse. Because what Theatre Three director Linda May has done with Yasmina Reza’s rib-tickling script is so masterful in conception, it’s doubtful that any previous major domo could have wrung funnier (or more incisive) performances from her talented trio of charges. Once again, Port Jefferson’s Broadway on Main Street has delivered a boffo production!

The story (appropriately set in Paris) tells of three good friends who find their long-standing bonds severely tested when one of them buys a costly modern art painting. Serge, the purchaser, convinced that his pals, Marc and Yvan will share his admiration for the $50,000 masterpiece, gets the surprise of his life to find that one of them is actually repulsed by his acquisition, and the other couldn’t care less.

After all, the big-spending Serge figures, doesn’t everyone see the artistic excellence in a large, all-white, chef-d’oeuvre containing a few barely discernible, meaningless anemic stripes …ugh?

Clearly, the answer is “No.” In fact, the vocabulary-challenged Marc feels compelled at one point to describe his buddy Serge’s acquisition as, “A piece of white …” (uh … excrement). In the original French, Marc’s term of choice was the commonly used pejorative … merde. Or so my Francophile associates assure me. On the Great White Way, where language spills from the mouths of actors as if they were freshman congresswomen, Marc goes right for the jugular and labels Serge’s treasure a four-letter version of manure … and I don’t mean dung. At any rate, suffice it to say that the indelicacy amounts to a cultural declaration of Marc vs. Serge war.

It falls to Yvan, who is facing his own incipient disaster … in this country we call it a wedding … to placate the artistic adversaries. Life could well prove unbearable should he lose the cozy sanctuary that Marc and Serge have provided him for the past 15 years. But what if they both resent Yvan’s failure to side with them as individuals in this runaway flap that’s leading God-knows-where?

You’ll see.

It is at this point that veteran thespian Linda May truly struts her directorial stuff, as she plumbs the depths of playwright Yasmina Reza’s sophisticated gem of a plot, and guides Steve Ayle (Serge), Antoine Jones (Marc) and Matt Senese (Yvan) in their search for the meaning of Art … but more importantly, for the definition of what constitutes Friendship.

‘Art’s’ effective Set, Lighting, Sound and Costumes are everything we’ve come to expect from Theatre Three productions. No surprises there. It must be said, though, that guiding light Linda May brings more to the show’s table than we might have anticipated. Indeed, the bravos that resounded throughout Port Jefferson’s 160-year-old playhouse during yesterday’s curtain calls belong largely, and deservedly, to Ms. May.

One caveat: theater lovers shouldn’t dilly-dally in obtaining tickets. Unless I’m mistaken, the relatively brief run for which this play is scheduled (January 12 – February 2) will prove to be insufficient exposure once word of the show’s excellence gets around Western Suffolk and environs. Believe me, the litany of ‘F’ and ‘S’ bombs notwithstanding, ‘Art’ didn’t snag that ‘Best Play’ Tony in ’98 for nothing. This comedic winner is not to be missed.

Award-winning writer, Jeb Ladouceur is the author of a dozen novels, and his theater and book reviews appear in several major L.I. publications. His recent hit, THE GHOSTWRITERS, explores the bizarre relationship between the late Harper Lee and Truman Capote. Ladouceur’s topical thriller, THE SOUTHWICK INCIDENT, was introduced at the Smithtown Library on May 21st. The book involves a radicalized Yale student and his CIA pursuers. Mr. Ladouceur’s revealing website is www.JebsBooks.com 


Article originally appeared on Smithtown Matters - Online Local News about Smithtown, Kings Park, St James, Nesconset, Commack, Hauppauge, Ft. Salonga (http://www.smithtownmatters.com/).
See website for complete article licensing information.