Pardon the lack of recent postings…aside from prepping for my upcoming fourth anniversary Visitorium party on Sunday June the 1st (you’re coming, right..?), I just haven’t actually SEEN that much lately. Tho I have at least had two interesting visits to the Gladstone Theatre in the last few days. One was a very lovely opportunity on the weekend to take part in their general auditions for the upcoming season, and , well, it was an audition and let’s leave it at that, okay? The night ended up in drunken karaoke, if that tells you anything (that it was awesome? Am I sending out mixed signals?).
But last night I was back in a more traditional, bloggery role, checking out a little art. Or rather ‘art’ by playwright phenom Yazmina Reza (translated from her native French here by Christopher Hampton), whose GOD OF CARNAGE rocked Ottawa last year courtesy of Third Wall. This time she’s back courtesy of Same Day Theatre, who just racked up the Outstanding Production nod from the Prix Rideau Awards for IN THE NEXT ROOM. Plus the show was directed by Peter James Howarth, who helped my beloved Ottawa Theatre School go out on a high note wit SYLVIA late last year. So, yeah, the show was pretty well credentialled before I even got to my seat. And after taking in the very gorgeous set, I settled in for what I figured, based on CARNAGE last year, would be a group of regular people behaving extremely poorly despite their best intentions. And that’s just what I got, thank God.
Set in Paris, the show follows longtime friends Serge (Robert Marinier), Marc (David Frisch), and Yvan (Andy Massingham). Serge is showing off his latest acquisition to Marc…a seemingly all-white painting (but no, there are shades and some lines, if you look at it just so, he swears) by the artiste-du-jour that he’s just paid a king’s ransom for. And Marc, all rebel swagger in his leather jacket…he just doesn’t get it. There’s modern art, and then there’s…well, bullshit. Both Serge and Marc seek independent counsel on the issue, in the form of flakey Yvan, who is busy stressing out about an impending wedding that seems more like planning a siege than preparing for wedded bliss. But his attempts to placate the slowly simmering Serge and Marc only seems to fuel their fire, as well as draw him into the vitriol. Things soon spiral out of control, and the fifteen year friendship threatens to erupt into the most violent modern art set piece ever imagined.
As someone who once got dumped because I didn’t like the same folk singer as her, I can attest to the dopey fact of how much our cultural choices affect out relationships, and ‘art’ illustrates (and mocks the ever-loving shit out of) that dynamic beautifully. Slick direction and lighting is heightened tenfold by great performances…Frisch as the eternally smarmy Marc is wonderfully intolerable in his nitpicky aggression. Robert Marinier, who I’d never caught before this, is goddam perfect as the would-be enlightened art lover Serge, taking passive-aggressive to new levels as he airily scoffs his friends for their lack of appreciation for the ‘modern’ style. And my old prof Andy Massingham scores big as poor Yvan, clinging feebly to his marbles as things crumble around him…the moment when he races in, out of breath, and relates a terrible family phone battle he’s just been subjected to at top speed is a glorious sight. This is a smart and funny show with a lot of uncomfortable truth in it, and a great cast bringing it to life…fast paced, never dull, viciously witty, real and absurd at the same time. Just like life, no? The resolution to all of this has to be seen to be believed…a wonderful ‘gasp’ moment from the entire crowd, and trust me, you want to be a part of that crowd. ‘Art’ plays until June the 8th, and is a great capper to the Gladstone’s season. Check it out, I dare ya. Peace, love and soul,
Kevin Reid, the Visitor (and Winston)