Male bonding, art and laughter take center stage at the Fisher Theatre as the Tony Award-winning play Art has its run there through Jan. 30. The long-lasting friendship among three middle-aged men is put to the test when Serge (Cotter Smith) purchases an unusual white painting for an exorbitant amount of money. The work of art sparks tension and reveals latent feelings of insecurity between Serge and Marc (Judd Hirsch), all of which leaves the third friend, Yvan (Jack Willis), in the middle.
Of course, the way men express their feelings (or not) leaves room for much improvement and, in the case of Art, affords audiences 90 minutes of almost nonstop laughter. Although the painting in debate is at the forefront of each discussion during the performance, at the core of this comedy is not the value of art, but the value and maintenance of friendship.
Marc feels that his years of "molding" Serge into an astute connoisseur of culture have left him with a snobby, unappreciative remnant of a friend. Unaware of Marc’s true feelings, Serge is offended by his friend’s derogatory comments concerning his purchase, leaving questions looming about the future of their relationship.
Despite the seemingly emotional basis of the play, don’t expect sappiness to prevail. The only tears shed over Art might be tears of laughter. Playwright Yasmina Reza fills every minute of the brief production with smart and witty dialogue brilliantly executed by each of the actors. Whether it’s Marc and Serge engaging in an intellectual debate on modernism, deconstruction and who qualifies as a man of his time – or sensitive, frustrated Yvan erupting into a seemingly endless monologue about which stepmother will be on his wedding invitation – Art depicts the male psyche through rational yet emotionally charged conversations.
Masterfully heading up the dialogue and cast is Judd Hirsch, best known for his longtime lead role in the TV series "Taxi." Changing his acting cohorts but always remaining through runs in New York, London and now on tour, Hirsch seems as synonymous with the production as Topol was to A Fiddler on the Roof.
Equally savvy are Smith and Willis, who complete the talented trio. With the actors clad in sharp but not showy black-and-gray attire, and with a sparse, all-white stage set, the emphasis remains consistently on characters and conversations. With all of these components, little else is needed, not even music.
Contrary to its big Broadway musical counterparts – which tend to monopolize national tours – Art transcends traditional commercial appeal and goes straight for the intellect and soul. With sold-out performances nationally and internationally, Art proves there may be (thankfully) a place for "other" modes of theatrical entertainment.E-mail comments to [email protected]