ART. One-act comedy by Yasmina Reza Translation Christopher Hampton. Directed by Anton Schafer. Milnerton Players . Milnerton Playhouse.
Anton Schafer directs Yasmina Reza’s comedy.

ART. One-act comedy by Yasmina Reza. Translation Christopher Hampton. Directed by Anton Schafer. Milnerton Players (weekends). At The Milnerton Playhouse until 21 October.

SHEILA CHISHOLM reviews

What differentiates great, good and okay art from unfathomable eyesore paintings? Why is Leonardo da Vinci’s 1503 Mona Lisa kept under heavy guard in Paris’s Louvre? A child’s first watercolour may hang in full view in a home, but Tretchikoff (is often) sniffed at? Surely art’s worth is defined by what emotions it stimulates, and not monetary value? Without ever arriving at any definitive answer, art connoisseurs have argued that point for centuries.

It’s a question French writer Yasmina Reza explores in her 90 minute comedy Art. Serge (James King) has invited his friend Marc (Martin Kluge) to view his newly purchased 200,000 franc painting. He’s inordinately proud of his acquisition. But Marc can’t fathom why Serge paid – approximately R500 000 – for three white, diagonal, north west to south east stripes superimposed on a white board.

ART. One-act comedy by Yasmina Reza Translation Christopher Hampton. Directed by Anton Schafer. Milnerton Players . Milnerton Playhouse.
James King (Serge), Werner Steffen (Yvan) and Martin Kluge (Marc)

Minimalist setting, creative lighting

“You paid that sort of money for that s***?”, is Marc’s initial reaction. When third member of the trio Yvan (Werner Steffen) views it, he’s less interested in Serge’s pride and joy than about his forthcoming marriage. He’s a nervous wreck trying to fathom who sits next to who without feuds erupting. Strongly influenced by Marc’s negative reaction, Yvan follows suit. And the friends start arguing. Arguments that threaten to tear their strong friendship apart.

Barry Altwig’s all white minimalist setting lends itself perfectly to shifting action from the friends different apartments – done by swopping one picture for another, and a vase for a shamash. This in enhanced by Fin McCormick’s creative lighting design and executed to an unaccompanied Bach Cello Suite.

Art Martin Kluge(Marc) - Werner Steffen(Yvan) - James King (Serge) in Art
Martin Kluge (Marc), Werner Steffen (Yvan) and James King (Serge)

A well-acted, delightful play

Choosing Reza’s Art from which to launch his directing career provided Anton Schafer with an excellent vehicle. While witty, Reza introduces an unexpected psychological depth, probing what binds friends. Shafer’s intelligent understanding shows a talent for developing dissimilarities between characters. And his trio respond with matching aptitude.

Kluge, in his debut with Milnerton Players, is a “high calibre” actor who captured Marc’s dominating personality to a T. King’s ongoing mannerism of putting his  hand in and out of his pocket irritated, but not enough to distract from his display of “hurt” by his friends ridicule.

Fortunately Steffen’s nervous energy stopped short of overacting, and all husbands-to-be would identify with his pre-wedding panic. In Art’s cleverest scene Kluge’s Marc healed their friendship, while ending Art with a surprise.

A delightful, thought provoking well-directed and acted play. Put it on your bucket list.

What: Art
Who: Milnerton Players
Where: Milnerton Playhouse, Cape Town
When: Until 21 October, 2017
Book: 082 267 1061, bookings@milnertonplayers.com
Web: www.milnertonplayers.com/
WS