Three To Tango
Pac Rep's Art provides belly laughs and heady insights into 03/15/01 the nature of friendship.
Thursday, March 15, 2001
Late in Art, author Yasmina Reza nails what the play is all about. As three old buddies--Marc, Serge and Yvan--hash out the underlying problems that threaten their friendship, Yvan reads notes from his latest visit to the psychotherapist: "If I am who I am because you are who you are, then I''m not really who I am."
The meanings of art and friendship are knocked about in Pacific Repertory Theatre''s fine, absurdly comic performance of Art, now playing in the Circle Theater at the Golden Bough. With a witty script (translated by Christopher Hampton) and excellent performances by Tim Hart, Sid Cato and Michael Jacobs, it''s a show filled with laughter that doesn''t obscure a larger meaning.
On its surface, Art is about modern art. Serge has just spent $200,000 to purchase a white-on-white painting by a trendy artist--for all intents and purposes, it''s a blank canvas to which the characters affix their own values. Serge finds deep meaning in the painting. Marc is affronted by his friend''s expensive purchase, even if he can''t quite put his finger on why. And Yvan is pretty much willing to see whatever his friends want him to see.
The conflict in artistic sensibility between Serge and Marc, with the hapless Yvan in the middle, threatens to tear the trio to ribbons. But that''s only the surface of the play. As the arguments get increasingly personal, we begin to see that each of the characters has been something of a blank slate. Each is a work of art whose value and meaning are defined by the others. Ultimately, the three pals'' quest is to find their friends'' intrinsic value.
Essentially, Art is a long (about an hour and 40 minutes, performed without intermission) one-act play. Fortunately, the dialogue, staging and performances are lively enough that you''re still laughing by play''s end.
Director John Rousseau effectively uses the theater-in-the-round, creating multitudes of triangular designs. It''s a staging that emphasizes the notion that the three characters are really part of a bigger pattern.
As an ensemble piece, the success of each actor is largely dependent on the effectiveness of his cohorts. And here''s where this performance truly shines.
The emotional linchpin of the production is Serge, and Sid Cato is truly affecting as he rolls from childlike enthusiasm about his new acquisition to bitchy defensiveness and vitriolic personal attacks on his friends. Any of those could be annoying, but Cato makes it work by layering the performance with underlying sensitivity--we feel that he really does care what his friends think and he lashes out only when he is truly wounded.
The same sort of layering informs Tim Hart''s performance as Marc. While the character calls for a performance that is full of bluster and less complex on the surface, Hart gives us a character who feels hurt and rejected by his old friend.
Stuck in the middle, Michael Jacobs makes the most of Yvan, the most comically neurotic character of the three. But here, too, Jacobs gives us more, revealing the man who stands to lose the most if the friendship crumbles.
Coupled with Reza''s insightful script, these fine performances not only deliver a gut-full of laughs, they also leave us with questions about the way we view our own friends and relationships.
Art plays Tuesday-Thursday (7:30pm) and Saturday (2pm) through April 14 at the Circle Theater, Monte Verde and 8th, in Carmel. Tickets cost $20-24/general, $5/children and $10-18/seniors. For reservations of more info, call 622-0100.