If Art was a play about art alone — in particular about deciding what does or does not qualify as art — then a review would run the danger of falling into a sort of infinite regress; i.e. does a play about whether a painting qualifies as art qualify as art?
Thankfully, however, the story isn’t just about art or aesthetics, nor is it solely about what is or isn’t fashionable. It’s about people. It’s about why we connect with the people we call friends and the expectations we burden them with in so doing.
It’s about the control we like to exert on the people in our lives; the subtle questions we toss into conversations to make sure their views haven’t strayed too far from our own.
And it’s about the value that we attach to objects and people alike.
The play itself is quite sparse: just three men, a stage, and some paintings. Serge, played by Jamie Smithson, has dropped a hefty chunk of cash on an unusual painting: the canvas is white with a few white lines. The question of whether the painting is a proverbial “white elephant” or a true artistic work begins to fracture the friendship of the three men.
Each of the actors has a moment to shine during the play. Smithson was as brilliant as always in his facial expressions and mannerisms. Paul Rolfes played, with razor-sharp precision, the part of the petulant pal who cannot bear the thought of Serge thinking for himself.
Paul Whitty, as a nice-guy “people pleaser” trying to escape from family wedding planning drama for a few hours, was delightfully comic. His meltdown in front of his friends, post telephone-call-with-mother, was priceless, earning an enthusiastic round of applause from the entire audience.
The play, directed by Joy Vandervort-Cobb, is a welcome addition to the Stelle di Domani series. There’s a great deal of wit spun throughout the story. Mirrors are held in front of the faces of art world pretentions, so to speak, and much of the dialogue centers on the ways in which we can be utterly unbearable to the people in our lives.
In fact, much of the play could be construed as a good argument for hermetic life… until, of course, the rationale for giving friendship another shot takes center stage. That’s the part that provides such a satisfying finish.