GREEN BAY, Wis. (WFRV) – It’s amazing how complex three letters of the alphabet can be when placed in a certain order: a-r-t.
What art is from the perspective of three erudite male friends is the grist for the intellectual mill of the play, “Art,” which is the current interest of Footlights Theatre Company of Green Bay.
Sunday afternoon, the relatively new entry on the area theater scene completed a four-performance run of “Art” in a space in The Premier in west-central Green Bay. Two more performances are set this weekend in Sturgeon Bay.
“Art” is big-think theater. It takes derring-do to pull off because of the required acting skill sets. They are flashed in the production molded by director Sara Yach, one of the company’s founders.
Written by Yasmina Reza, “Art” originated in French. It premiered in October 1994 in Paris. The English-language version translated by Christopher Hampton premiered in London in October 1996, with Sean Connery as one of its producers. Sean Connery again was one of the producers when “Art” played on Broadway starting in February 1998; it won the Tony Award for Best Play.
The play is simple and difficult at the same time.
Simple: It can be done with a few set pieces.
Difficult: What the three men say on the huge topics, and how they deliver that.
Think of three men on a flying trapeze (figuratively) talking about art and friendship. The three guys are way up there in a lot of ways with their lofty, high-level discussions of concepts and philosophies. The intercourse is found only among urban, educated, and self-aware sorts. The humor is elevated and wry.
One pulls the chain of another for being “dazzled by what he believes is culture.”
Serge, a divorced dermatologist, has purchased a work of modern art, an oil painting, for 200,000 francs. That dates the play to pre-euro, which is immaterial; the sum is breathtaking to Serge’s friends. Marc, a married engineer, thinks the painting is “s—.” Yvan, a jack of all jobs who is about to be married, mirrors Serge’s thoughts and seemingly likes the painting.
The painting is five by four feet and dominantly white – though Serge would disagree – with some vaguely visible colors in the field.
The three men debate, sometimes heatedly, about this and that in the painting.
What the painting represents is not expressed until the very end of the play (turns out to be profound, I think).
While the painting is important as an object to explore – wonderfully, if you like wordplay about what makes art art and what is worthy art or fashionable art or art-art-art whatever – the play becomes about the friendship of three grown men and their – and friendship’s – strengths and weaknesses.
The players are well-equipped by experience in hardball material from performing in the area.
Vance Toivonen taps the meticulous passions of Serge.
Eric D. Westphal taps Marc’s jerkiness, being too smart for his own good.
Bill Sergott taps Yvan’s come see come saw take on life. Bill Sergott unleashes a spectacular scene in which Yvan bursts upon the impatiently waiting – for him – Serge and Marc and unloads a frenetic tale of woe of being caught between a fiancée, a mother, a stepmother, a soon-to-be-(maybe)-stepmother-in-law and the precipice of a cliff. It’s wildly energized stuff and comical in Yvan’s desperation.
This is adventuresome, solid, head-spin theater, and Sara Yach and Bill Sergott, Vance Toivonen and Eric D. Westphal deliver the goods.
Running time: 85 minutes (no intermission)
Remaining performances, in Sturgeon Bay: 7:30 p.m. May 21, 2 p.m. May 22
Location: Margaret Lockwood Gallery Inside/Out Theatre is located at 7 S. 2nd Ave. in Sturgeon Bay
Creative: Playwright – Yasmina Reza, translated by Christopher Hampton; director – Sara Yach; stage manager – Kati Long
Cast (in order of appearance)
Marc – Eric D. Westphal
Serge – Vance Toivonen
Yvan – Bill Sergott
NEXT: “The Medusa Monologues,” a work-in-progress written, directed, and performed by women; for summer 2022; info: footlightstheatregb.gmail.com.
THE VENUE: The Premier, with an arts-incubator aura, is located at 520 N. Broadway in central Green Bay. The address is a former office/business/industrial-type building that housed such entities as the Larson Co., Birdseye Foods, Kraft Foods, and many others during an era as a vein of commerce. The Premier hosted a previous theatrical production in a different space in the building. “Art” was performed in a similar space improvised for theater. At the rear of the performance space were large wall mirrors; playgoers could see one another and street scenes to the rear. Red curtains and solid red paintings on both sides of the audience were part of the “Art” ambiance. In general, a few steps up off the street lead to a hallway passing restrooms and arts-related business entrances. The theater space has an open, loft feel with exposed concrete pillars – wrapped in small lights – and exposed ventilating system on the ceiling. Seating is on folding chairs on the concrete floor.
In Sturgeon Bay: THE VENUE: Margaret Lockwood Gallery Inside/Out Theatre is located at 7 S. 2nd Ave. in Sturgeon Bay. The space is a variation on black box theater. Some spaces are equipped for that style. This space is adapted to be a theater space. The ceiling is open with a steel beam and ventilation system metalwork. The floor is concrete. The space is in the lower level of the art gallery/studio, with the entrance along a winding sidewalk from the Michigan Street side of the building. The space is a kind of/sort of walk-in basement, though a step beyond that. Adjacent in a hallway are restrooms. The space suits theater that is especially up close and personal.