Gateway Theatre
ART by Yasmina Reza, translated by Christopher Hampton

Dates and Venue 5 - 22 February 2014, Tues – Sat 8pm (matinees Tues at 1pm & Sat at 2pm)| MainStage, Gateway Theatre, 6500 Gilbert Road, Richmond

Director Stephen Drover Assistant director Marie Farsi Set design Drew Facey Costume design Barbara Clayden Sound design Troy Slocum Lighting design John Webber Stage manager Lorilyn Parker

Reviewer John Jane

Parisian playwright Yasmina Reza’s ostentatiously titled, single act play treads a narrow line between dark comedy and contemporary drawing room drama. Happily, the solid cast manages to strike a near perfect balance between the two. As with Reza’s other well-known play God of Carnage, Art sets about deconstructing the human psyche with delicious satire.

When bourgeois poser Serge (Hiro Kanagawa) splashes the cash on a painting by a semi-well known artist, he couldn’t have imagined it would be the catalyst of a confrontation between himself and his old chum. Marc (Michael Kopsa) sees nothing more in the painting than meets the eye and is furious with Serge for paying a couple of hundred francs for “white stripes on a white background.”

Marc then seeks support for his opinion from their mutual friend Yvan (Haig Sutherland). However, to his chagrin, Yvan is as non-committal as a Swiss diplomat. When the three men get together later for a social evening, the conversation becomes a battle zone as the trio reveal long hidden resentments.

Of the company, Haig Sutherland is the most entertaining as the mildly neurotic Yvan. His mind-mangling jeremiad over the composition of wedding invitations brought both guffaws and applause from the audience. Michael Kopsa gives a typically droll performance as the hubristic Marc, while Hiro Kanagawa is utterly convincing as nouveau riche Serge.

Director Stephen Drover maintains a perfect pace throughout. The play employs a technique (a gimmick, really) that has the characters making their private thoughts audible to the audience. The device provides much of the play’s satire and removes the invisible barrier between the performer and the audience.

Drew Facey’s urbane set of a tastefully furnished living room serves as quarters separately for Serge, Marc and Yvan by just changing the adorning artwork.

Perhaps it’s just simply schadenfreude, but there is something oddly cathartic in watching normally rational and educated of people dismantle right in front of you. No one conjures this better than Yasmina Reza.

© 2014 John Jane