ART – The Pasadena Playhouse

On February 6, 2012 by Lynn

                 Art

I think I’ve had a wee bit of a crush on Bradley Whitford since his Josh Lyman days.  Let’s just get that out of the way.  

Art is in the middle of a short run at The Pasadena Playhouse (this delightful little venue we haven’t had a chance to go to before), starring Bradley Whitford, Michael O’Keefe and Roger Bart.  Yasmina Reza’s play about three friends who find their relationship nearly torn to pieces when one of them purchases a brilliant piece of art/total waste of money/completely pretentious joke masquerading as an actual painting.  (Reza also wrote the stunning God of Carnage, and its themes of humanity and relationships and community are definitely echoed here as well.) These three friends – Serge (he who owns said painting), Marc and Yvan – spend several days arguing, yelling, backstabbing and generally being totally horrible human beings to each other.  But they also spend those several days finally digging into the deep parts of their friendship, the parts that are always there that it’s far to easy to overlook.  It’s the questions we’ve all faced when staring down good friends of ours – Who am I?  Who do you think I am?  Am I honest? Am I loved? Are we really friends?   

Part of culture and community is based on humanity’s ability to overlook parts of our friends’ or family’s lives that we don’t love or don’t agree with.  I think Van Gogh’s paintings are beautiful.  I think the Mona Lisa is ugly. I love being vegan. Try as I might, I am really truly not a fan of French food.   I hate death metal music.  I have friends that love it.  I will totally own up to being the girl with a glass of red wine and a good indie film in my living room, while Luke is much more into the big-budget blockbuster films on opening weekend.  

But there’s a difference between acknowledging our differences and “agreeing to disagree,” and simply burying the truth about what we really think for fear someone else might not agree. And these three friends in Art have spent so long telling each other what they think the other wants to hear that when an enormous 4×5’ painting makes silence or obtuse replies completely obsolete, these three have nothing to do but sit in a room and tear it all to pieces.  

I kept thinking of The Fray’s song “Over My Head” – there’s a line that just says, “We won’t let this go down ‘til we torch it ourselves.”  These three characters are doing a damn good job of lighting the torches.  Why is it that our friends and family can hurt us more deeply than anyone?  Why is it that somehow, in our twisted little human brains of ours, we latch onto all the perfect buttons to push for when we’re ready to wound each other?  And what does that say about us as people? 

Art is brilliantly funny, if you can believe it. It pushes us to look at all the absurdities and wonders and beauty of art and friendship and love.  But there is also brutality as they rip each other to shreds.  I kept looking at Marc, the first instigator of “What the hell were you thinking, buying this white and off-white canvas?” I wondered if that art didn’t tell him more about himself than he really wanted to know.  That maybe he was inelegant, that maybe there was nothing much of substance when other people looked at him. Yvan played the peacemaker, mirroring his friends’ thoughts back to them until they were satisfied, if not honest. Serge looked at the painting and loved it for what it was.  And he seemed to me the sort of man who wouldn’t mind being unwritten on, a free bird in the turmoil of everything.  To him, I think, this painting looked like freedom.  

Different views.  Different people.  Different personalities molded into friendship. I don’t want to spoil the ending for those who haven’t seen it – but let it be said that a felt tip pen has never before been used as such a perfect gesture of friendship, in all of it’s funny, beautiful, broken moments.  

All in all, a perfect night at the theater… 

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