By Dana Lacey
My room mates and friends are artists, my neighbours run an art gallery, and I’m around art a lot. But me, well, I’m not an artist, or even a dabbler–call me an appreciative outsider. So when I read the sell lines for The Canadian Stage Company’s production of Art–something about defining “art”–I almost passed on the play. Yet another exploration of the shit-or-art debate? No thanks.
But in the end, I was lured by star power (albeit of the dimly-lit-Canadian variety) of Colin Mochrie, who stars as art connoisseur Serge. In my youth, I spent many an afternoon enjoying the comedian’s Whose Line antics, and I felt like I owed him one.
I’m glad I went.
After a slow start, Art finds a good pace and kept my friend and I enthralled throughout. The story: Serge has just spent a sizable nest egg on a painting by a renowned contemporary artist. It’s a 5 by 4 foot canvas with a white background, painted with diagonal white lines that may or may not have the slightest hint of red. Of course, to the unenlightened eye–a.k.a Serge’s friend Mark–the canvas is simply blank. Mark snarks at the purchase, trying to goad Serge and their mutual friend Evan into admitting that the painting is, simply put, a piece of shit.
Turns out this isn’t a play about the meaning of art, but of art appreciation. It was also about cynicism, which, love it or loathe it, is one of my personal specialties. Without preaching, Art attacks the dismissive. Who is the snob? The choosy art expert or the one who thinks the art expert is a snob?
Mark–played with brilliant bite by Peter Donaldson–can’t understand how Serge could put himself in debt for the white wonder, but starts to doubt his own cynicism. Mochrie is a convincing nouveaux riche critic, and he delivers his impressive brand of physical comedy with perfect timing. Yvan, ever the umpire, tries to mend the rift between the long-time friends while fighting offscreen with a frantic fiancée (which accumulates to the best explosion of exasperated storytelling I’ve ever seen, compliments of actor Evan Buliung). What ensues is sharply funny yet uneasily wise dialogue as the trio consider deconstruction, the ties that bind and whether its okay to laugh when your friend buys a piece of shit. Go check it out.
Photo by Cylla von Tiedmann
Showtimes: Mon to Sat at 8 p.m., matinees Wed 1:30 p.m. and Saturday 2 p.m.
Tickets are $20 and up. PWYC Mondays (if purchased in person).
Tickets are available in person, by phone (416.368.3110), or online.