Art

A taut, emotionally charged look at aesthetics and human relationships

Details

Through July 30

Tickets are $30

677-9596

www. sfplayhouse.org

SF Playhouse, 536 Sutter (between Powell and Mason), S.F.

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It's not hard to see why Yasmina Reza's play Art caused such a fuss when it appeared in Paris, London, New York, and just about everywhere else from the late 1990s onward. The tightly wound, bittersweet comedy in which three middle-aged friends, Yvan, Serge, and Marc, almost come to blows over a painting, is at one level about people's perceptions of art, and at another, the nature of human relationships. The Damien Hirst-size hype that surrounded the play a few years ago makes staging it today feel a bit like arriving at a costume ball just as the last guests are leaving, but SF Playhouse puts on a memorable afterparty. In many ways, Art is tailor-made for this company: Bill English, SF Playhouse's artistic director (who plays the role of Serge in the production), also happened to design some of the most stylish sets in the area. The look for Art, which English created, is a study in clean angles and severe, understated elegance, like the interior of a Gucci store. The play is also a wonderful chamber piece, perfect for performance in SF Playhouse's intimate yet airy space, by a trio of compelling actors. Keith Burkland is adorably shabby as the henpecked Yvan; dressed in a conservative blue pinstriped suit, Louis Parnell (Marc) is suitably outspoken and cynical; and English comes off as suave and ever so slightly smarmy as Serge, the dermatologist who buys the painting that sets the whole thing off. Director Robin Stanton's painterly blocking adds the final touch to this sublimely composed canvas.

 
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