A difference in opinion is nothing to stake a friendship on, and certainly nothing to lose one over, though it would seem that three long-time friends find themselves in exactly such a predicament as Dignity Players opens their 2013/2014 season: ‘The Power of Art’ with Yasmina Reza’s witty comedy Art. Directed by Darice Clewell, this fast-paced comedy raises questions of art and friendship, but mostly brings to light the principles under which a friendship, regardless how long-lasting and deep, may crumble. Simplistic in its nature, with humor seamlessly woven throughout the play, this production is a perfect start for their season.
Director Darice Clewell keeps choosed a semi-minimalist approach, which allows the work to speak for itself as well augments the simplicity of the piece of artwork that is the show’s central focus. Serge, having bought a completely white painting— white canvas, white paint, white—and having paid an exorbitant amount for it, has raised the alarm of his dear friend Marc. The bickering begins and their dear friend Yvan finds himself trapped in the middle. A comedy ensues with valid points on all sides when it comes to opinions and friendships.
Clewell has selected three talented actors for the piece, creating the perfect chemistry among them on the stage. The fights feel authentic, burbling with a much deeper tension than just the problems that have been presented on the surface. Their relationships feel accomplished, as if they have naturally existed for quite some time, so when the three gents get to fighting their squabbling is that much more detrimental and explosive, feeling as if years of frustration and restrained tension is bursting through in their words.
Serge (Kevin Wallace) is the catalyst for the performance having purchased the work that starts the commotion. Wallace has a way with words that suits the character like a fine silk glove; enunciating, articulating while still letting his dialogue flow smoothly, a very polished and refined sound that is both captivating and fascinating. Even when he begins barking out in moments of extremely frustrated passion, the way he formulates his text is gentle on the ear. He portrays the character with a haughty edge; a man who flirts with high society while only mingling through it rather than belonging in it. His larger than life stage presence creates the character’s ego, which clashes divinely with Marc (Tom Newbrough).
Newbrough as the antagonist of sorts, (if you choose to see this as Serge’s story), needles at the situation, exacerbating a menial difference in opinion into a cacophonous maelstrom between friends. He plays the character with an overactive mind, which plays the dialogue in a manner most befitting; his mind is visibly always cranking, forever calculating the situation he’s in. This is best witnessed during his asides with the audience in regards to his opinions; his narrative style presented with a personal candor that really hooks the listeners into his story.
Yvan (James Gallagher) is the enigma that binds the whole mess together. Gallagher’s obsequious nature renders him an easy target when the other two ‘friends’ needs to bond, and yet its his existence as this meek and terribly unsettling character that draws them back together after these horrific rows. Gallagher delivers an epic monologue of stunning proportions; a spastic retelling of his personal life crisis from that day with vocal intensity that is all over the map as he rolls through external character voices, his face and gestures thoroughly animated. So impressive is this bit that Gallagher received an ovation mid-show for it.
The three performers create drastic pockets of explosive moments, first between Wallace and Newbrough and then later as all three are quibbling in Serge’s apartment. They tear at one another with a polite viciousness that quickly devolves into a vulgar verbal mutilation of character and overall existence. As their friendships slowly fizzle and then violently shred apart at the seams the play races toward the ultimate conclusion.
Dignity Players’ Art is a stunning production with wonderful performances that should not be missed.
Running Time: 90 minutes with no intermission.
Art plays through September 28, 2013 at Dignity Players performing at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Annapolis—333 Dubois Road in Annapolis, MD. Tickets can be purchased by calling the box office at (410) 266-8044 ext. 127 and by purchasing them online.