Colonial Players of Annapolis’ production of Art is a hilarious way to open their 74th season. Yasmina Reza’s 1994 comedy, about a man who buys a completely white painting for a lot of money, and his two friends who wonder about it, offers a funny situation and lines while also suggesting thoughtful observations on art, philosophy, and friendship. Directed by Debbie Barber-Eaton, it moves quickly and easily, with no intermission.
Jim Reiter plays Serge, the buyer of the painting, with a slight pretension. Annoyed that Marc (Tom Newbrough) doesn’t appreciate his purchase, he mocks his friend’s taste, using complex words and modern ideas about art and culture. As their argument gets heated, he becomes cruel, attacking Marc on a personal level. The situation becomes incredibly tense.
Tom Newbrough gives an aggression to Marc. He laughs mockingly at the painting, calling it “bullshit” and seeming to be personally offended that Serge would buy it. A maverick who rejects most modern things, he tries to be conciliatory but ends up arguing with Serge over the tone and meaning of their words.
Sam Lunay plays Yvan as a peacemaker, desperately trying to please both Serge and Marc. His most comic moment comes when he describes (in excruciating detail) the drama of wedding planning, with mothers, stepmothers, and his fiancé, before collapsing into a chair. In a touching emotional moment, after Serge and Marc have ganged up on him, he cries that he’s not as strong as them, and just wants to be their friend.
Set Designers Mary Fawcett Watko and Laurie Nolan have created a simple but effective set. In the center are a sofa, coffee table, and two fashionable chairs, with a drinks cart in the corner. In the opposite corner are paintings that get swapped out each scene, depending on whose home we’re in. Props Designers Charlotte Robinson and Mary Beth Yablonski get great laughs with the painting. Other props shown early on play a large role later.
Costume Designers Fran Marchand and Janice Coffey cleverly reveal each character’s tastes and personality through their clothes. Serge looks slightly ostentatious in a nice dress shirt and slacks, with a vest and white dinner jacket. Marc is down-to-earth in casual jeans and a shirt, while Yvan is somewhere in the middle with a casual shirt and nice blue jeans.
Lighting Designer Matthew Rigby highlights each actor as they speak to the audience and blacks out the stage between scenes. Before the play, projections of famous paintings, like Starry Night, are shown on the stage floor.
Debbie Barber-Eaton does a wonderful job as director. The actors work tremendously well together, going from discussions to arguments and even a fistfight, well choreographed by Casey Kaleba. The play moves quickly yet carefully, with a touching and unexpected ending. Everything comes together for a night of laughter, but with plenty to think about afterward. Don’t miss it!
Running Time: Approximately 80 minutes, with no intermission.
Art plays through October 1, 2022, at Colonial Players of Annapolis – 108 East Street, Annapolis, MD. For tickets ($23; $18 student, senior, and military), call the box office at 410-268-7373 (option 2) or purchase online.
The online program for Art is downloadable here (under Production Playbills)
COVID Safety: Masks are optional, though strongly encouraged. Masks will be required for the September 25 and 30 performances.