SALT LAKE CITY — Art written by Yasmina Reza, is a play that first appeared on Broadway in 1998 with a pretty well-known cast, and went on to receive many awards and positive reviews. It is a play that contains strong language, so be informed of that if you are a person who is sensitive to that. The story follows three friends as they discuss the acquisition of a painting by a famous artist that appears to be no more than white streaks on a canvas. At a deeper level, it is a play about the judgment of friends, why we decide who we are friends with, and the value that we bring in a relationship and that others bring to us.
The first thing I want to commend about Pinnacle’s production of Art is the set design and direction by Michael Payne, the lighting design by Harrison Corthell, the costume design by Rachel Kimber, and how the three intersect to bring more profound meaning to the production as a whole. When a play proclaims to be about the understanding and acquisition of art, I find myself impressed at the efforts the creative team set forth in trying to portray art within their design. The scene is set in a few modern day apartments, and the company had a small black box stage in which to design. The vast majority of the costuming, set, and lighting was in black, white, and grey. However, there was some strategic uses of blue, yellow, and red within the painting of the set, the costumes, and the lights that were distinct enough to make a statement, yet small enough to not detract from the overall show. I found myself impressed by this small infusion of color, and felt that it added a great deal to the overall feeling of the show.
The cast consisted of only three characters, which honestly is a more difficult production for an actor than a cast of 50, because when only one character is less than up to par, the entire production suffers. Happily, this was not the case with the three players in this production. The first character we are introduced to is Marc, played by Justin Bruse. Marc is concerned that his friend has made an unintelligent decision in his purchase of this painting, and finds himself questioning the thinking of his friend, and even their friendship in general. Bruse played the role with an impressive ability to convey stress and frustration, and had little mannerisms such as using a handkerchief to wipe his brow that seemed realistic.
The next character, Serge, played by Roger Dunbar, is the character who has used a small fortune to buy a painting. Throughout the show we get to see him trying to justify his choice and reasoning, and the emotion with which Dunbar expresses the desire to be understood by his friends was intriguing.
Finally, we have Yvan, the friend in the middle, played masterfully well by Jared Larkin. Larkin was indeed the strongest of the show, as was evidenced by a monologue performed mid show in which he details his woes of dealing with setting up a wedding while trying to balance the needs and desires of his future wife with the wishes of several persistent and argumentative family members. All of the players brought on strong performances, but I would say that essential element of this production was the chemistry that the three had together, and how they were able to play off one another to develop the rich storyline.
Finally I would like to say that the main crux of the story is encompassed in one line that states “I’m not like you, I just want to be your friend.” This show was an inquisitive look into why we are friends with each other, and what we may or may not expect in return. It is a production that brings a lot of reflection and self-evaluation to the audience that catches the deeper meaning of what the story is trying to say. This is one of my favorite forms of Art.