Dark dialogue but Art shines in smarts

Haig Sutherland as Yvan and Michael Kopsa as Marc share a laugh over a painting their friend thinks is anything but funny.  - Tim Matheson
Haig Sutherland as Yvan and Michael Kopsa as Marc share a laugh over a painting their friend thinks is anything but funny.
— image credit: Tim Matheson

What’s white, furry and shaped like a tooth? A molar bear! What’s white and goes up? A snowflake! White’s white on white and central to Yasmina Reza’s play Art? A painting!

Take a breath from all that laughing. This is a serious review, after all, and Reza’s Art is a serious play.

Art, which opened at Gateway Theatre Feb. 7, is a play in which friendships of three men are tested by a plain white painting. The play carries an important message, but audience members who get there will be among the battle-hardened, having to witness a steady stream of arguments and personal attacks.

The saving grace here is a script that allows for a few laughs amid the acrimony, and characters quite unlike the trucks-and-beer obsessed crowd often depicted in TV commercials. These men are OK with talking about their feelings.

The arguing, very lightly sprinkled with profanity, starts immediately. Marc (Michael Kopsa) gets a glimpse of a high-priced painting bought by his friend Serge (Hiro Kanagawa). Marc has more classic tastes and is quick to offend his pal.

Enter Yvan (Haig Sutherland), a tolerant and quirky fellow whose life has become a black hole of wedding planning and stationary. His initial lack of opinion increases the temperature, but also briefly cools the heat when Marc and Serge agree their friend should ditch his wedding plans.

Dialogue of this argument-driven play casts a dark cloud that’s only illuminated by the occasional idiocy of the characters and their shortsightedness. The French playwright’s work is at times comical, but it’s also sad. Thankfully there’s a thoughtful conclusion to this mess.

In avoiding the suburban male stereotypes, Art is refreshingly intelligent and leaves us plenty to ponder. People change. Some friendships last, others don’t. Art lasts about 75 minutes on stage, or longer if it hits the right note with viewers.


•Written by Yasmina Reza

•On Gateway Theatre’s MainStage Feb. 5 to 22

•Tickets, $30 to $49, at gatewaytheatre.com or 604-270-1812

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