Yasmina Reza's Art is a hostile, funny play about a trio of men that clocks in at a swift 90 minutes without intermission. Like Reza's God of Carnage, which Theatre Raleigh presented earlier this summer, Art is fundamentally a play about privileged people behaving badly—a premise that local directors may believe strikes a chord of recognition in the Raleigh theatergoing set. Afterward, I heard one gentleman remarking just how much a character reminded him of himself.
Here, Serge (a stiff but competent Chris Brown) has bought a bleak piece of modern art for a large sum, a decision that angers his longtime friend Marc (Mark Phialas, perfectly unlikeable). Then there's weak-willed Yvan (a terrific Kevin Leonard, who steals the show with a rambling monologue about his impending nuptials). Yvan fuels the inevitable fire between the three friends by playing to both Serge and Marc's interests; the result is an explosive confrontation that comes as little surprise.
Despite some questionable staging and costume choices—a poorly placed couch; a baggy outfit on the uptight Marc—director Jesse R. Gephardt paces the production swiftly. Though tension might be allowed to escalate more gradually to add color to a mostly monochromatic play—Art is ultimately about situations; the characters remain archetypes—this comedy of manners elicited belly laughs and groans from the audience. Indeed, if Art were to be tweeted rather than performed, each line would be followed by #firstworldproblems.
This article appeared in print with the headline "Masterpiece theater."