I write in this week’s City Paper that Signature Theatre’s God of Carnage is an admirable, well-acted production of a thin play . I felt much the same way about their production of Art, from the same playwright, at this time last year.
Both plays were worldwide hits and Tony Award winners. So perhaps Yasmina Reza is French for “not for me.”
Art by Yasmina Reza; translated by Christopher Hampton
Mitchell Hébert and John Lescault / photo by Scott Suchman
Directed by Matt Gardiner
At Signature Theatre to May 22
To frame things as reductively as possible, Yasmina Reza’s Art and Enda Walsh’s The Walworth Farce are both about two guys reacting to the alarming behavior of a third.
Admittedly, it’s a pretty slim commonality. Dinny, the tyrannical patriarch who runs the show in Walworth, is violent, delusional, sadistic—the very model of a modern major depressive sociopath. Serge, the catalyst of Art, is merely pretentious, dropping 200,000 clams on a painting that appears to his pals, and to us, to be a blank white canvas. “The resonance of the monochromatic doesn’t really happen under artificial light,” he explains, like an emperor protesting that his new clothes need only be brought in a bit.
Serge is a dermatologist by trade. That a surface unperturbed by form or color would call out to his soul is one of the better jokes here, which is to say this is neither the funniest nor the most insightful work ever to win the Tony Award for best play, which it did, or to follow its denouement with a deflating coda, which it does. Continue reading