“Art” is in the eye of the beholder at Olde Club

Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.

‘Tis the season for Drama Board shows, and “Art” arrives with a more intellectual bent than most. Playing at Olde Club this weekend, Yasmina Reza’s play is a funny and sometimes scathing look at aesthetics and the complexities of human relationships.

Serge (Mikio Akagi ’08) has bought a painting. A completely white painting. His friend Marc (Aaron Hollander ’07) is outraged at the idea that this can be art, and that Serge spent so much money on it. A third friend, the somewhat hapless Yvan (Chris Compton ’09) is on the fence.

“Art” is in the eye of the beholder at Olde Clubby Miles Skorpen

It’s a somewhat predictable and not very original premise for a play, and the characters are defined by a few characteristics each (Yvan is getting married, Marc has a homeopathy habit, and so on). Reza’s writing is often very funny and always engaging, though the play itself is not particularly challenging.

Director Mischa Stephens ’06 and his cast have done an admirable job in giving the characters real depth and personality, and keep the play entertaining and moving at a fast pace. The deisgn work is also good. Set designer Kim Comer ’09 has made grungy Olde Club into something resembling a bourgeois living room, which could not have been easy, and Nora Nussbaum ’08’s lighting plot works well, particularly when the painting seems to glow.

One advantage to the play’s vagueness is that the characters are very easy to identify with. “Everyone has something to identify with in each character. Audience members should be able to say afterwards if they are a ‘Marc,’ an ‘Yvan’ or a ‘Serge,'” said director Stephens in an email. In one nice detail, all three friends seem to think one of the others has lost their sense of humor.

Stephens sees the play as serious, but not without funny moments, including “situations that can make us laugh because of [their] absurd cruelty.” Theatergoers should be advised to not take the opening announcement overly seriously.

An astute and detailed look at some universal themes with fine acting all around, “Art” is not to be missed, whether you like the idea of a white painting or not.

“Art” plays at Olde Club at 8:00 p.m. tonight and Saturday, and at 7:00 p.m. on Sunday.

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