Thanks to Ken, I am once again given the opportunity to review for A Seat on the Aisle. This time, I have the potentially dicey task of reviewing a production that Ken has directed. It is one thing to review a show which includes Ken as one actor among many. But this assignment strikes me as much more perilous – since the Director has so much control over (and responsibility for) an entire Production. The good news is that Yasmina Reza’s Art, now playing at Carmel Theatre Company’s space on First Ave NE in Carmel, is a superior evening of thoughtful theater, with the bonus that it contains some wonderful laughs as well. Ken and his cast should be proud!
The winner of the 1998 Tony Award for Best New Play, Art quickly struck me as a bit of sleight of hand, since it was not quite what I expected. Unlike last year’s Red at IRT, Reza’s play is NOT an examination of the nature of “art”. Instead, the playwright is more interested in the nature of friendship and how we define our friends, and how that ultimately can define ourselves. The playwright introduces us to Marc (Larry Adams), Serge (Daniel Shock) and Yvan (Clay Mabbitt) – three friends about whom we are given very little background. What we do learn at the outset is that Serge has purchased a painting that will soon become an object of some contention.
Prior to seeing the play, I was expecting that the playwright would explore questions about what does or does not constitute “art”. Instead, Reza quickly makes it clear that she is more interested in human matters. Will these three men destroy their friendship over what appear to be “artistic” differences? What was the underlying basis of these friendships to begin with? Most importantly, the playwright asks the audience to consider questions about the very nature of these relationships that we call friendships. Do we make friends because of who THEY are or is it more about how WE feel? I don’t want to spoil anything by saying more, but I found myself leaving the theater with a lot to think about – undoubtedly more than if the play had merely been about the “nature of art”.
Actors Adams, Shock and Mabbitt all acquitted themselves quite well. None had an easy task, since each of the three characters is at least somewhat unlikeable for a portion of the play’s 90 minutes. I found that each created a fully living character. I will note that the playwright (or her translator) gave Yvan the sometimes showier role. Mabbitt handled it beautifully.
The direction is subtle and succinct. The set, costumes and lighting are all just right. The three men (and the painting) are the show, and the Director makes sure your focus is on them. I will include one quibble – just so Ken doesn’t think I am shirking. The musical underscoring at the end of the show was unnecessary. I prefer that kind of touch be left to the movies.
The director notes in the Program that he and two of his actors have mounted this show before. If you missed it – here is your chance to catch an engaging production. If you saw & liked it before, a return visit is in order. Art continues its run through March 15th. You can find out more about the schedule online at http://www.carmeltheatrecompany.com and you may reserve tickets by calling the Carmel Theatre Company Box Office at (317) 688-8876.