For as long as there’s been art, there’s been the long-lasting debate— what constitutes art? Does art refer solely to the finished product, or is it the process, regardless of the outcome, that we deem artistic?
Written for the French stage by Yasmina Reza in 1994, ART centres on the plight of three friends, Serge, Marc, and Yvan. Serge (played by David Christoffel) has invited best friend Marc (Rob McClure) of fifteen years over to his home, where he unveils his most recent artistic purchase – a stark white painting acquired at an exorbitant price. Much to his dismay, Marc immediately expresses his disdain for the piece, refusing to even recognize the work as art. The canvas, (which according to Serge is anything but white) becomes a battleground for the pair. Thrown into the crossfire is fellow long-term friend Yvan (a scene-stealing Jeff Schwager), a pitiable pushover, who, already in the thick of making hellishly stressful wedding plans, has no desire to make bigger waves between the volatile Serge and Marc.
ART boasts a highly intelligent script that plays host to a welcome barrage of deep-rooted, previously undiscussed issues the characters in turn take time addressing. Rob McClure infuses Marc with a blistering short fuse and fiery stubbornness. David Christoffel’s Serge is endowed with an air of superiority; there’s a sense of relish to his character— sure, he’s affronted by Marc’s brutal honesty, but there’s a sense of satisfactory amusement he derives by verbally and mentally sparring with his friend. Jeff Schwager excels as the highly-neurotic and flamboyant Yvan, imparting a strong need for his character to just let sleeping dogs lie, for his uncomplicated relationship with his friends to carry on just that way. However, he becomes an unwilling mediator between two uncompromising personalities and it’s interesting to see the dynamics between the characters change. Watching the loyalties shift throughout the performance is the best thing ART has to offer.
Yet despite all the talent of those involved and the well-crafted script, I found myself wanting more from a show full of so much potential; I think it boils down to the safe choices derived from casting a play comprised of older white males. Whereas the performances of ART’s actors are fine and commendable, there were many theatrical possibilities left unexplored. For a show that was, overall, very fun to watch, I couldn’t help but wonder what difference a little diversity might have made.
All photos credited to Lisa Marie MacPhee