Written by Yasmina Reza
Directed by Morris Panych
Featuring Colin Mochrie, Peter Donaldson, Evan Buliung
Runs until April 10 @ Bluma Appel Theatre
By Daina Valiulis
Yasmina Reza’s ‘Art’ explores the essence of character and friendship over a heated debate about a piece of modern art. Serge (Mochrie) buys a white painting for 200,000 francs – an “Andrios” – pridefully showing it off to his good friend of fifteen years, Marc (Donaldson), a committed classicist who is appalled by this “piece of shit” and Yvan (Buliung), who has no real opinion at all. A heated debate on these different perceptions and definitions of art ensues, and ultimately reflects each man’s character, growing more personal and uglier as the play progresses, calling into question their very friendships.
While the play brings to light an interesting and endless debate, the best thing about the show is the impeccable comedic timing and strong acting from all three men. With good reason – both Buliung and Peter Donaldson have had long, impressive careers in the major Ontario theatres, having won and been nominated for plenty of awards in the process, and of course, Mochrie is Canada’s darling of comedy, appearing on Whose Line is it Anyway? and most recently taking part in the Colin Mochrie-Brad Sherwood Third Annual Farewell Tour. As a trio, they have exceptional chemistry and work together seamlessly in creating the rhythm of the piece. The bursts of frustrated monologues followed by silence for just the right length of time, followed by a clever and often biting final thought come about so naturally they leave one in a whirlwind of stunned laughter only to reoccur once again shortly thereafter. Buliung’s frustrated verbal diarrhea is particularly hilarious – especially as Yvan describes being pushed around by the women in his life, perfectly timed and rightfully met with effusive applause at the end.
The set reflects each man’s essence as it changes from one man’s apartment to the next. The basic stage contains a modern-looking couch with matching chairs and a coffee table. When we’re in Serge’s abode, the painting on the wall is an industrial black and white photograph with a clean lined light fixture hanging in the centre. Marc’s apartment, representing the other extreme, features a more ornate light fixture and a landscape painting, while Yvan’s place sits, somewhere between, neither modern nor classic: an abstract still life and track lighting.
‘Art’ leaves no question in one’s mind as to art’s subjectivity. The show was very enjoyable and well crafted, presented, as artistic director Matthew Jocelyn writes, with the intention of letting the debates rage on long after the curtain has come down. Let’s hope these debates don’t go to such ugly extremes as to break up any long-standing friendships.