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In review: “Art” at Titusville Playhouse

Patrick Ryan Sullivan, T. Robert Pigott and Stephan J. Jones in “Art” at Titusville Playhouse.


By PAM HARBAUGH

In the tiny Emma’s Attic at Titusville Playhouse, three professional actors prove that the best things do come in small packages. It is their top-notch, emotion-packed Equity production of the Tony Award winning play, “Art.”

In it, playwright Yasmina Reza uses a post-minimalist “white” painting as a catalyst to bring out the colorful dynamics of friendship between three men.

Set in Paris, it begins at Serge’s home. He and Marc, their backs to the audience, regard a large painting hanging on the center of the upstage wall. Marc’s dislike for the painting turns into visceral disgust when he learns Serge paid 200,000 francs for it. But it’s a steal, Serge suggests. After all, it was made by Antrios, who is all the rage in the contemporary art scene.

The two men spar verbally with arguments laced liberally with intellectual jabs at each other’s taste. Marc eventually gets a third friend, Yvan, into the heated debate, which eventually reveal personal issues and dynamics long ignored in their friendship. To use a term which Marc reviles, friendships get “deconstructed” and those elements reformed into something new, and richer.

As directed by Patrick Ryan Sullivan, who also portrays Serge, the production has a vivid emotional core. It moves rhythmically, like a string trio, into a fugue of emotions rising into crescendi then breaking into solos directed to the audience.

You may have seen a production of “Art,” but probably one not as well acted as this one at Titusville Playhouse.

Here, the cast includes three professional actors – Stephan J. Jones, T. Robert Pigott and Mr. Sullivan. They each serve up Reza’s translated lines (the play originally was written in French) with such aplomb that for all their intellectual ranting, these characters are very believable and recognizable.

As Marc, Mr. Jones, one of Orlando’s most popular actors, proves again his remarkable range. He imbues his portrayal with wit, humor, intellectual prowess and deep emotion. He even ties a perfect bow-tie “a vista” (in front of the audience). And it is his final moment in the play which reveals the last layer of the play’s theme.

As Yvan, Mr. Pigott, who has been a professional actor since studying theater at Yale University, shows a tender depth of vulnerability. His role is the fulcrum, trying to balance the rage between his friends. He has exquisite timing and understated humor which works so well in the up-close, minimalist confines of Emma’s Attic.

As Serge, Mr. Sullivan, whose professional credits range from Broadway and Seattle to Vero Beach and Orlando (and many regional points in between), finds the wit underscoring Reza’s play. His sophisticated portrayal is at once intellectual and ironic, but filled throughout with earnest warmth.

Scenic designer Jay Bleakney creates a stunning “less is more” setting for this production. This is an intimate space, which means tiny. Mr. Bleakney’s minimalist scenic design rather forces the three characters into confrontation. Two beige curtains hang diagonally at the sides of the acting area, creating a forced perspective of depth…and adding to the motif of canvas. Moreover, they become part of the theatrical painting, as it were, forged from the same sophisticated beige-toned palette as the costumes.

Philip Lupo’s lighting design moves the show smartly, although we would love to see him eventually afford a few more lighting instruments for the upstage area.

A production like this shows what a little jewel of a theater space Emma’s Attic can be when you have the right show and the right cast. You’ll feel as thought you’ve fallen into an Off-off Broadway venue. This is a rare opportunity to see such skilled performances here in Brevard County…and for only $10…What?!! That’s right. But you have to act fast. The play runs only two weekends. There is very limited seating in Emma’s Attic. I urge anyone who loves theater, loves acting, loves directing, to go see it.

SIDE O’ GRITS: “Art” runs through Jan. 14, 2013 at Titusville Playhouse’s Emma’s Attic, 301 Julia St., Titusville. It performs 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 2 p.m. Sundays. $10 (handling fees may apply). Call 321-268-1125 or visit www.titusvilleplayhouse.com.