City Theater Company (CTC) returns to the Wings Black Box during its 2022-23 residency at The Delaware Contemporary (TDC) with the Tony- and Olivier-winning comedy ART. The 1994 play was written by Yasmina Reza and translated from the original French by Christopher Hampton.
The story is about three friends who find themselves at odds after one (Serge) purchases a very pricey, all-white painting. Throughout the show, the three characters argue viciously — amusingly — over their responses to the painting.
ART stars CTC debutant Nick Johnson as Marc plus CTC alumni Christian Deisler (Serge) and Emma Romeo (Yvan). The “deconstruction” of the central piece of artwork devolves to comic effect as the trio grapples with the larger question of how to maintain personal relationships through a (contrived) crisis. A cutting question Marc repeatedly asks Serge is, “You paid 200,000 francs for this [expletive]?” When Yvan tries to play peacemaker, she is derided by the others as a “coward” and an “amoeba,” and even suffers a minor injury when she tries to defuse a brief scuffle.
Though it makes several appearances during the play, the white painting soon becomes a MacGuffin — i.e., a catalyst for amplifying hidden tensions inside this longstanding three-way friendship. The simple question, “But is it art?” runs throughout the action, either explicitly or implicitly – moving the plot forward.
Don't be misled by the impressive pedigree of ART, as the play is almost more slapstick than subtle. But the themes run deep because true friendship is not superficial. These characters care about each other, but life has intervened – which often makes the simple more complex.
These are not esoteric personas, but ones you interact with daily. Serge is an idealist whose life has been mostly comfortable. Marc is a realist with a stern outer layer he uses for protection. Yvan is an easy-going person on the outside with insecurities swirling below the surface. All three actors imbue their characters with individuality and compassion. They are a talented trio whose banter is natural and pointed, helping the audience believe their characters are really friends – but also scathing critics.
Director Jeff Robleto allows his actors to interact and soliloquize easily and comfortably under clever lighting by Stuart Thomas. Robleto’s pacing keeps us hooked into the changes these friends are going through. After the show, it is inevitable to ponder changes in one’s own friendships and the views others may have of us. Do interpersonal conflicts just happen or are they initiated?
The funniest scene is when Yvan delivers her wedding monologue — listing all that could go wrong about her upcoming nuptials. Romeo commanded our attention and drew us into her character’s angst while humoring us with mundane decisions which are slowing driving Yvan mad. But are her concerns of any consequence to Marc and Serge? Do they even care? …a little? …a lot?
Come to the Riverfront to find out!
Artistic Director Kerry Kristine McElrone was excited before (and after) the show about this and the upcoming slate of performances by City Theater Company. The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion (February 2023) and Stephen Sondheim’s Assassins (April 2023) are next on the docket. Plus there are partnership productions with TDC and Fearless Improv coming up. Check city-theater.org for more information.
CTC’s mission is to create a body of work that takes risks and breaks barriers — just as TDC’s is to take risks and push boundaries. Both institutions are invested in promoting the work of local and emerging artists, advancing opportunity and growth by and for the community, and welcoming all those looking to experience art.
ART will run for only four more performances through Saturday (December 11, 15, 16 & 17). Curtain is at 8:00pm save for the lone Sunday matinee (2:00pm). Run time is just about 90 minutes. City Theater Company’s new-ish home is at The Delaware Contemporary located at 200 South Madison, Wilmington, Delaware 19801.
Tickets ($30-45) can be purchased at the box office or online. Special ticket pricing is available for military personnel and students. Please call the box office at 302.220.8285 or email firstname.lastname@example.org for details.
It's a great time to visit The Delaware Contemporary (and other local museums) and ask yourself rhetorically, “But is it art?”