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A White Piece of Art Makes Life Colorful: Milwaukee Chamber Theatre performs Reza's "Art"

Bill Finn

Would you spend $200,000 on a painting of a white background with white stripes?  How would your closest friends react if you did?

Such is the premise of Yasmina Reza’s “Art,” running at the Milwaukee Chamber Theatre from August 8th to 25th, featuring Tom Klubertanz, C. Michael Wright, and Brian Mani. 

When Serge (Wright) decides to splurge on the painting, his longstanding friendship with Marc and Yvan (Mani and Klubertanz) is strained to the extreme.  The three actors spoke with Lake Effect’s Bonnie North about the play, to which they say “anyone with friends will relate,” and the fresh perspective it brings to traditional portrayals of male friendships. 

As the actors point out, we meet the characters “right at a crux, where they could go in many different directions” with the relationship.  Though they are all about the same age, Serge, Marc and Yvan are at entirely different stages in life: Yvan is on the cusp of marriage, Marc is in a new relationship, and Serge is recently divorced. 

Wright explains that Serge is initially attracted to the white-on-white painting because it seems to you can paint your future.

“I think you can paint your own life onto a white canvas," said Wright. 

Self-proclaimed trio leader Marc sees the purchase as a betrayal of his trust and of his classical taste in art.  Yvan feels trapped between his two best friends and worries that he will lose them both, all over one obscenely-priced piece of modern art.

Klubertanz, Wright, and Mani are quick to point out that, while the synopsis seems serious, “Art” will have audiences laughing throughout. Reza’s writing, they explain, is well-crafted and entertaining both to watch and perform.  The script is filled with “good language that feeds emotions,” and the actors agree that, unlike in some other plays, there are no designated “laugh lines.”  Rather, people will gasp and giggle at different things each time, with everyone taking away something different in the end.

So maybe this piece of art isn't so boring after all.

Yasmina Reza's "Art" is opening with the Milwaukee Chamber Theatre tonight at the Cabot Theatre. The show will be running Wednesdays through Sundays until August 25th.

WUWM is giving away tickets to see the show - enter to win.

Rachel Bloom is a recent graduate in Human Biology from Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island. This past year, she served as a fellow at the Women's Policy Institute in Providence and interned in a clinical psychiatry lab investigating how early life stresses impact adult neural connectivity. After focusing her efforts in the sciences during her time in college, she is thrilled to explore her longstanding, yet relatively unexplored, interest in radio journalism with WUWM this summer.
Bonnie North
Bonnie joined WUWM in March 2006 as the Arts Producer of the locally produced weekday magazine program Lake Effect.