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Art

By:Yasmina Reza
Translated by:Christopher Hampton
Director:Matthew Warchus
Sets:Mark Thompson
Lighting:Hugh Vanstone
Music: Gary Yershon
Sound:Mic Pool
Opened:3/98 at the Royale Theater
Cast:Alan Alda, Victor Garber and Alfred Molina

London's runaway hit comedy by Yasmina Reza arrives stateside with a star-powered cast: Alan Alda, Victor Garber and Alfred Molina. Set in Paris, it's a take on the emperor's new clothes theme when Serge (Garber) buys a head-scratching canvas — a painting that's nothing but 4' by 5' of white. His friends mock him for his taste, and the dialogue rapidly turns from a meditation on art to a meditation on friendship. In contrast to the “masterpiece” in question, the script seethes with colorful banter, as the trio bats about urbane catchphrases like “deconstructionism.” Alda, as Serge's longtime friend, flays his pal for falling prey to such artistic flimsiness; meanwhile Yvan, the most earnest of the trio, attempts to bridge the ensuing polemics. But as the arguments become increasingly acrimonious, he, too, is alienated. Suddenly the men have to wonder: Do they have anything in common? While sleek and thought-provoking, the production sometimes feels more like a situation comedy tinted with tragedy than a trenchant character study. Still, Art is worthy of its hype; the men, especially Molina's fumbling Yvan, are perfectly cast and nuance their arguments with subtle but effective inflections, knowing laughter and telling gestures. Despite its highbrow origins, Art is accessible and satisfying, not unlike the great white painting itself.