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at Syracuse Stage, Syracuse, NY, Sunday, May 13, 2001
ART, the 1998 Tony award-winning play by Yasmina Reza, closes the Syracuse Stage season with a bang. Performed without intermission, the centerpiece of the play is a contemporary white on white painting purchased by Serge for a very large sum. When his best friend Marc first sees it, he refers to it in one of George Carlin's forbidden words. This precipitates a crisis in their long-standing friendship, tempered only slightly by Ivan, a younger mutual friend who attempts to mediate.
If this sounds like a heavy-duty subject, let me say at once that it has some truly hilarious moments. Granted, it is a discussion of the nature of art, but it's couched in terms of the nature of friendship. Thus the play works on many levels with Ivan being an inadvertent catalyst, as well as the painting. Ivan also sustains what I guess could be called collateral damage.
Patrick Husted as Marc, Gary Sloan as Serge and Jim True-Frost as Ivan are all very good actors, very well-cast and create a real ensemble feeling. The olive-eating scene is priceless, as is Ivan's moment of extended gymnastics. Kudos to whoever came up with the latter - I couldn't stop giggling.
The set designed by Michael Fagin and lit by Matthew Frey is a wonderful cross between a living room and a museum. With an inventive use of projections, flying paintings, and light it makes the play visually interesting without becoming distracting.
Director Melissa Kievman has put it all together into a terrific package. I particularly liked her use of the Papa Bear, Mama Bear, and Baby Bear chairs to subtly underscore control of the quarrel. In fact, I was enjoying myself so much I forgot to take notes.
This is a thoughtful and angry play that also manages to be very funny. Interestingly, I found myself identifying with each one of the characters at different times. It must be gratifying to Artistic Director Robert Moss to cap the season with such a delightful hit.
On a scale of one to five, the Syracuse Stage production of ART gets four and three-fourths oranges. For North Country Public Radio, I'm Connie Meng.