'Art' lovers can embrace comedy's serious side

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Production brings together Southeast Missouri State alumni.

Some tips if you're planning to go see the Southeast Missouri State University production of the comedy "Art": don't go expecting a gut-buster, but do go expecting to see a thought-provoking and serious exploration of friendship.

"Art" is billed as a comedy, and while the award-winner does have some funny moments, the play is all serious. This play manages to be both entertaining and deeply philosophical.

Despite the title, "Art" is really less about art than it is about people. The event that sets the play in motion is the purchase of a "painting" (a work of "modern art" that appears to be almost pure white) by Patrick Abbott's Serge.

The purchase and ensuing discussion between Serge and his longtime friend, Scott Hamann's Marc, is really just a catalyst, dredging up the deep, repressed emotions that each man has about each other. Those repressed feelings are the stuff of all relationships and, as "Art" shows, it's how we handle them that can make or break a relationship.

The painting is nearly ammunition for the two as they expose those little annoyances that have been hidden for so long, with a third friend, Mike Renick's Yvan, caught in the middle. All the while, sudden monologues that break into the action give insight to each character's true, sometimes shameful, thoughts.

Each character speaks to some traits inherent in all humans -- passion, pride, diplomacy, fear and anger. And as the play continues, each one teeters from admirable to despicable and back again.

Director and scenic designer Dennis Seyer did well to pick this thoughtful comedy for the university's Homecoming week, a time when old friends return to campus and come together, and by the end the actors manage to have the chemistry of real friends.

Rhonda Weller-Stilson is costume designer, Phillip Nacy is the lighting designer and Mary Woll is the production stage manager.


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