Tuesday, January 17, 2012

QUICK TAKE REVIEW ART for Art’s Sake By Beverly Creasey

What is art? Who decides? For one thing, it’s a hilarious play getting a first rate production at New Repertory Theatre (through Feb. 5th). Yasmina Reza’s ART, in a witty translation by Christopher Hampton, deliciously riffs on the eye of the beholder.’

The arguments for and against modern art could go on forever. Critics are still debating Marcel Duchamps’ toilet “ready-made” almost a century later. Reza’s ART places a totally white painting center stage. Then she creates a serious rift in a long time friendship over its merits.

The arguments pro and con could devolve into eye glazing academics were it not for Reza’s clever dialogue, the wonderfully comic character of the mediator and director Antonio Ocampo-Guzman’s delightful, energetic production for New Rep.

Robert Walsh is the self absorbed art collector who cannot believe his ears when his friend of fifteen years dismisses both his painting and his taste in one crude fell swoop. His surprise is palpable (and pretty funny, to boot). Robert Pemberton is the condescending friend who considers himself the voice of reason. Both of them behave like schoolboys on the brink of fisticuffs.

Best of all is Doug Lockwood as their poor, benighted, about to be married chum. The last thing he needs, finding himself in the middle of a feud with his almost mother-in-law, is to referee this melee. His monologue recounting his impending marital woes is the highlight of the New Rep production and when Walsh and Pemberton turn on him, it’s farce at its silly best. Having seen a more serious version of the play, I much prefer Antonio Ocampo-Guzman and company’s comic take.