When you’ve seen a show numerous times, you’re always hoping for something new, a fresh approach to the material. Director Daniel Borque and company provide it with the Hub Theatre’s production of Yasmina Reza’s ART (closing, alas, this weekend). Their production is grounded in humor. Bourque even bumps it up a notch with hilarious touches like white gloves for the pretentious, proud new owner of the $200,000 white on white painting… and when his best friend has the polar opposite view of the pricey acquisition, the two men separate abruptly, as if they were oppositional magnets. Bourque scores again when the three friends have exhausted themselves in a dust-up and sit hopelessly eating olives, side by side, like naughty boys outside the principal’s office.
Lest you worry, the comedy never overpowers the script. In fact, I think it brings affection and humanity to the (rather stilted) story of three friends on the verge of a break-up over an artistic opinion. Victor Shopov is all angles, posing for just the right combination of light and shadow for his painting. When stressed, he literally lets off steam with an incredulous “pfffffft” when his friend dares to disparage both the painting and his artistic acumen. The elegant John Geoffrion as his disapproving friend is most amusing when trying to conceal his contempt. Bob Mussett is sensational as the sad sack caught in the middle of his friends’ feud. When they both turn on him, it’s the stuff of great comedy. Like Stan Laurel or Lou Costello, Mussett’s expressive face is up to the task.