This preview article originally appeared in The Star & Wave newspaper on Wednesday, July 19, 2023.
Cape May Stage Explores Friendship in "Art"
Don’t be fooled by the play’s title. While a large white painting plays an oversized role in Cape May Stage’s newest play, “Art,” this wry comedy is more about the art of friendship than a work of art.
Cape May Stage presents its second mainstage play of the season July 20 through August 27. The play, written in 1994 by French playwright Yasmina Reza, premiered in Paris the same year, opened at London’s West End in 1996, and debuted on Broadway in 1998, where it won a Tony Award for Best Play. Since then, the show has been translated into 20 languages and performed in 45 countries.
The play is about three 40-something-year-old men, Serge, Marc and Yvan, whose yearslong friendship is tested when Serge buys the all-white painting for 200,000 euros, then invites his friends to his home separately to see it. Characteristically, Marc smugly dismisses the piece as a joke, and Yvan fails to weigh in at all. All three get together a few days later, but by then, their differences have reached a flashpoint that quickly devolves into a rapid-fire volley of slights, putdowns and grievances.
The playwright employs a clever device throughout this play to fill in some of the blanks about her characters and solicit support for them from the audience. Suddenly, the stage lights dim, a spotlight falls on a single character, and he speaks directly to the audience. These asides feel intimate, and add an interesting dimension to the play.
The play packs a lot of life lessons into this 90-minute sparring match. “We learn about the expectations we place on our friends, how they treat us, and whether they stay true to our shared beliefs,” said Chris Dolan, who plays Marc in the show. He played Yvan earlier in his career.
Regulars at Cape May Stage will recognize Dolan from his leading roles in the theater’s 2017 production of “Outside Mullingar” and its 2013 play, “Boeing, Boeing. ” He also directed its award-winning show, “Lend Me a Tenor” in 2013, which “Broadway World” proclaimed the “Best Play of the Decade.”
Audiences may also recall Scott Greer who plays Yvan in this play. Greer starred in Cape May Stage’s production of “Lend Me a Tenor.” He also played Yvan at the Arden Theatre in Philadelphia, where he performs regularly.
“I love this play,” he explained. “I love that the humor which, for the most part, is driven by character and ideas, rather than the situation or jokes. It’s enormously satisfying to make the audience laugh, but also present people with some really thorny, challenging questions.”
Timothy D. Stickney is a newcomer to Cape May Stage but is a veteran actor well-known to fans of daytime television, where he was a regular in “One Life to Live” for 13 years.
All three actors are brilliant in this often dizzying rush of a play. The dialoque is witty, punchy and, and in the heat of battle, hard-hitting, with zingers flying back and forth like arrows. The audience never stops rooting for the friendship, however—and neither do the friends.
“You build something new when you work with new people in a play,” Dolan explained, “Even though the script and words are exactly the same, this production is quite different from others. We’ve creating something new here together—and it’s a living, breathing thing.”
“We are celebrating connections with people this season,” said Cape May Stage Producing Artistic Director Roy Steinberg, “The exploration of friendship in this play is a perfect fit with our 2023 offerings.”
“Art” runs through August 27, Tuesday to Sunday at 8 p.m. For more information or to purchase tickets, visit www.capemaystage.org or call the box office at (609) 770-8311.