Stephen Sondheim may have said it best in Sunday in the Park With George: "Art isn't easy." Yasmina Reza's extended argument about perceptions and relationships delivers an articulate albeit wordy exploration of three men's friendships, as one buys an embarrassingly large white-on-white painting for 200,000 francs. The owner, Serge (Steve Vinovich), smugly shows his close friend, Marc (John Herzog), the new work. Instead of offering benign congratulations, Marc ridicules the purchase, setting in motion a series of dialogues that test their friendship. A third friend, Yvan (Kyle Colerider-Krugh), is drawn into the drama and plays the conciliator, as he straddles the fence in order not to take sides. Translated by Christopher Hampton, the script has a definite continental sensibility and lives in a rarified atmosphere in which men articulate philosophies rather than share the latest sports scores. The production demands a trio of actors who can make believable the petty jealousies, as well as a director who knows how to deliver both humorous and dramatic sparring. Director Andrew Barnicle does so, moving the production smoothly along, the three characters emerging as distinctly different personalities.
Colerider-Krugh stands out as the hapless, less sophisticated man. His comic timing and plaintive whining make the most of a long monologue delivered at breakneck speed about his upcoming wedding. Barnicle wisely chooses to have Herzog and Vinovich stand mutely by, far from the speaker, thus compounding the humor. Herzog is an arrogant, almost nasty combatant, and Vinovich contrasts his behavior with genial condescension.
The production is helped along by fine tech. Dwight Richard Odle's dark, revolving backdrop looms over the characters and artwork to create a focal point. Paulie Jenkins effectively spotlights the characters as they step forward to postulate their views for the audience. All in all, it diverts and intellectualizes, making the audience feel they have gotten their money's worth.
Presented by and at Laguna Playhouse,
606 Laguna Canyon Rd., Laguna Beach.
Tue.-Fri. 8 p.m., Sat. 2 & 8 p.m., Sun. 2 p.m. (Also Sun. 7 p.m. Oct. 7.) Sep. 15-Oct. 14.
(949) 497-2787. www.lagunaplayhouse.com.