Lively "Art" 

Yasmina Reza's celebrated play looks at the nature of friendship.

click to enlarge "I know what I like." David White, D.L. Hopkins and J. Ron Fleming are the stars of "Art," co-produced by Sycamore Rouge and Richmond Shakespeare. - ERIC DOBBS
  • Eric Dobbs
  • "I know what I like." David White, D.L. Hopkins and J. Ron Fleming are the stars of "Art," co-produced by Sycamore Rouge and Richmond Shakespeare.

Serge, a man with a passion for modern art, has just purchased a new painting for a whopping 200,000 francs. Marc, his best friend of 15 years, thinks the monochromatic picture is "a white piece of shit," while their friend Yvon tries to stay out of the middle of it.

This is the setup for "Art," a play by French playwright and actress Yasmina Reza, translated by Christopher Hampton. While it would seem natural to focus the play on what defines art and its meaning, Reza instead chooses to examine the nature of friendship and what it takes to hold buddies together.

In this venture of Sycamore Rouge and Richmond Shakespeare, Reza's script is on full display for all of its thoughtfulness and humor. The play covers a lot of interesting ground, intellectually and personally, and has great offbeat moments, such as when the characters stop arguing so they can eat a jar of olives.

J. Ron Fleming is sincere in his portrayal of Serge, while D.L. Hopkins' Marc manages to be both combative and funny. David White is good overall as the high-strung Yvon, but sometimes has trouble connecting, such as in a frantic monologue about his planned wedding.

K.B. Saine's direction has good pacing and comic beats until the last third when the show loses a bit of steam. Keith Saine's modernistic set serves as a good backdrop for the proceedings, and Brittany Diliberto uses the Leslie Cheek Theater's excellent lighting well. (The play's opening weekend was at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts' renovated theater. Subsequent performances are planned for Sycamore Rouge).

Lindy M. Bumgarner's costume for the particular Marc works fine, but Serge's baggy jeans don't fit his affluent metrosexual character. And while Yvan might be frazzled and have a disheveled appearance, dressing him like a bum in the last scene doesn't fit either.

The show drags a little near the end, but does a fair job overall with the script. In the end, this "Art" has heart. S

"Art" plays at Sycamore Rouge, 21 W. Old St. in Petersburg, through May 14. $18-$22. Call 957-5707 or visit sycamorerouge.org for information.

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