by John Stoehr
Yasmina Reza's Art, running now at the Chapel Theatre as part of Piccolo's Stelle Di Domini, is a play about three friends whose bond is suddenly and sadly unraveling.
The issue at hand is a white painting on a white background with fine white diagonal stripes. Serge (Jamie Smithson, above middle) buys the painting for $200,000 much to the displeasure of Marc (Paul Rolses, right), who fancies himself an aesthete of quality and who feels betrayed by Serge's purchase. Serge is like an adolescent rebelling against his protective older brother. Yvan (Paul Whitty), who has no opinion and no center of gravity himself, is dragged into their hyperbolic arguments. He becomes more of a punching bag for Marc and Serge's rhetorical haymakers than anything else.
Meanwhile, Yvan's high-maintenance fiancee is pushing on one side of him while his long-suffering mother is pushing on the other. The crisis centers on wedding invitations. Eventually, Yvan cracks under the pressure and demands some food. Something to nibble on, Serge, anything. Serge brings him a bowls of olives with pits inside. They all have a few together.
What comes next is a masterful turn of stage direction. Despite the rage and pain, their friendship is strong enough for them to eat olives together in silence. They can pass a small porcelain bowl between them so they can spit the pits out. It's a touching and fulsome moment that lingers meaningfully. Comic, sentimental, and sad. A sweet combination that illustrates why you go to theater.