Theater Review: Art

By Yasmina Reza, Translated by Nissim Aloni, Directed by Natan Datner, Haifa Theater, January 30.

theater 311 (photo credit: Courtesy)
theater 311
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Beaming, mighty pleased with himself, Serge (Ohad Knoler) shows Marc (Natan Datner) the painting for which he has paid 200,000 francs. It’s a white on white oblong, and for Serge it’s Art. Marc cannot believe his ears or his eyes. That piece of expensive trash is art?? Oh, puh-lease!! And when Yvan (Norman Issa) tries to mediate, as he’s always done between his volatile buddies, things go from bad to worse, not least because he’s getting married.
On the face of it, this is a sharp, sophisticated comedy about contemporary art and friendship in which ideas, like particles in a collider, bounce off each other with verve and wit.
But Art goes beneath the surface to dismember old assumptions, old ideas about the meaning behind the interpretation of friendship and art, the very words themselves.
And as their old definitions or bits of received wisdom are forced to the wall, the three old friends achieve a new context for their relationship.
Knoler, Datner and Issa, accomplished and thoughtful actors, work well and easily together. They juggle the lines expertly – sometimes at the expense of their diction – and Yvan’s famous monologue is a tour de force that garners Issa welldeserved applause. The actors bond more with the audience than the characters with each other, as old friends should and would. Perhaps that’s because Datner is also the director, but it niggled at me.
And it has to be said: The huge Haifa Theater mainstage is just too big for this production so that Avi Sechvi’s looming set of brick walls – so designed perhaps to suggest that the three are too much prisoners of their perceptions – resembles a real prison.
Withal, this Art means well. It has charm.
Just the tongue-in-cheek wit is missing.