French playwright Yasmina Reza was surprised when “Art” won London’s Olivier Award for Best New Comedy in 1998: “I thought I had written a tragedy.” Judge for yourself when the CCRI Players open the 2017-18 season with the play this month.
In “Art,” Serge, a divorced doctor who fancies himself an art collector, has bought a painting – “a white canvas with fine diagonal white streaks” – by a fashionable artist. His friend Marc criticizes him for making such an extravagant purchase for something so plain and lacking in artistic value. Serge is offended and an intellectual battle begins. Both try to get mutual friend Yvan on their side, but Yvan’s desire to remain neutral ends up angering them instead.
Reza, also known for “God of Carnage,” has said she had the idea for “Art” after a friend bought an expensive painting and the two had a good laugh. She said the play represents what could have happened if either had hard feelings toward the other.
Throughout the play, the men wonder how they became friends and whether it is worth all of the tension. Reza also raises questions about the role of honesty and asks how we should function in the world: Is it better to always speak our mind or, like Yvan, to tell lies as white as Serge’s painting?
“Art” premiered in 1994 in Paris, where it won the Molière Award for Best Commercial Production. The English adaptation premiered in London in 1996 and ran for eight years. It opened on Broadway in 1998 with a cast of Alan Alda, Victor Garber, and Alfred Molina, who was nominated for a Tony Award. “Art” won the Tony for Best Play and went on to a 600-performance run. It has been produced worldwide and translated into 20 languages.
“Art” will be presented in the Bobby Hackett Theater at the CCRI Knight Campus in Warwick at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, Oct. 12 to 14, and at 2 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday, Oct. 14 and 15.
The production is directed by Associate Professor Luke J. Sutherland, who also has designed the set and sound. Lighting design is by Steve Williams, costume design is by Assistant Professor Marilyn Salvatore and properties design is by Raymond S. Legare. Justin Carroll is the technical director and Linda M. Sutherland is the dramaturg. The cast features Kayla Newport of Riverside as Serge, Erin Archer of Providence as Marc and Clark D’Agostino of Scituate as Yvan. The stage manager is Julia Egan of Cranston, assisted by Katie Russell of Newport. Shoshana Adler of Cranston is assistant director.
Tickets cost $12 general admission and $10 for students, senior citizens and CCRI faculty and staff. For reservations, call 401-825-2219.