By Yasmina Reza. Dir. Brad Lyons. With Mark Pracht, Jeffrey Baumgartner, Vincent Kracht. Bohemian Theatre Ensemble at Bailiwick Arts Center.
If you never saw Art and you're curious why it became a trans-Atlantic hit with a rotating series of television and film stars, Lyons's pedestrian production isn't going to enlighten you.
When a guy spends a huge sum on a painting that's basically a white canvas, his friend is sent into conniptions, offended by his pal's aesthetic and personal betrayal, while a wishy-washy mutual acquaintance is caught in the middle.
The only imaginable rationale for this play's international success is that it's got three things going for it: It's low budget (the white canvas and three chairs make up the entire set), it serves as a chewy vehicle for three male actors and it seems to be a deep intellectual study of friendship while remaining intellectually lite. Reza's grand idea is that when our buddies' values start differing from our own, friendships can get rocky.
Without any stars to dazzle our vision, Bohemian Theatre Ensemble's inaugural production lets us see all too clearly the flimsiness of the material. Just when Art seems about to make some astute observation about friendship, it doesn't. Likewise, just when these actors almost make a connection with each other, it gets broken off. It's hard to imagine two average Joes like Pracht and Baumgartner arguing about deconstruction and the meaning of art. They'd be more convincing rehashing a Cubs game. Nor do we believe for a second that these three characters, at least as portrayed here, would ever be friends, so there's hardly anything at stake.—Novid Parsi