Monday, February 16, 2009

Review: Art

"If I'm who I am because I'm who I am and you're who you are because you're who you are, then I'm who I am and you're who you are. If, on the other hand, I'm who I am because you're who you are, and if you're who you are because I'm who I am, then I'm not who I am and you're not who you are..."

Steppenwolf Theatre's production of Art proves that Yasmina Reza's play about the "art of friendship" is one of those gems that will always resonate with its audience. Reza's work is so universal that anyone who has ever been in any type of friendship will immediately identify with the three characters as they explore what it is that holds them together. Steppenwolf's audience laughed heartily through the whole production as they say a little of themselves upon the stage.

Overall, the production was too nice. Director Rick Snyder's staging embraced the more farcical elements of the play rather than delving into the darker underbelly that gives the play some edge and bite. There was never any real danger of the friend loosing their friendship over the purchase of a white painting. The tone of the production is best summed up by the fight in the latter half of the play. Rather that having the characters roll up their sleeves and sock it out, a brief shoving match degrades into a slap fight that you might expect out of Frasier and Niles Crane. The performance seemed under-cooked; the actors flubbed many of their lines, much of the dialogue played on the same level, and the two actors who wore glasses as part of their costumes took them off so often that it became a distraction.

Despite a few hiccups, the production is quite enjoyable. Antje Ellermann's scenic design perfectly evokes the apartment of a man you would expect to have purchased an all-white paining. All three actors give strong performances that will only get better as the run progresses. They land every laugh and every punch line quite effectively. If you have never seen a production of Art before, Steppenwolf's production is bang-on and will give you much to discuss with your friends afterwards.

Happy Birthday: Edgar Bergen (1903-1978) & John Tartaglia (b. 1978)

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