NAPPANEE — The mainstage season of Amish Acres’ Round Barn Theatere is several weeks away, but what may be the best production of its year is currently in the Locke Meeting House, tucked away at the rear of the gift shop adjacent to the theater. On the small, back-to-basics stage, the award-winning play “Art” is in the more than capable hands of a trio of actors — Sam Brown, Joe Ford and Jeremy Littlejohn. All three will be familiar to regular Round Barn audience members, although Jeremy is more often in the director’s chair and Joe, on stage in Chicago. Together they do an excellent job of recreating the protagonists in Yasmine Reza’s 1998 play, which is often described as a comedy but definitely has enough sharply dark moments to question that label. Whatever you want to call it, “Art” is a 90-minute examination of both the limits of friendship and the definition of art.
Serge (Brown), a dermatologist with a penchant for art, has purchased a new painting which he eagerly displays for his friend of 15 years Marc (Ford), an aeronautical engineer. Marc’s reaction to the work — a white painted canvas with some barely discernible white lines across it — and more especially to the purchase price — $200,000 — is to laugh uncontrollably, call it a joke and label it “crap.” Serge, not surprisingly, is less than pleased and defends his acquisition. The arguments move from the painting to more personal moments and, in the way of all verbal battles, cutting words are said in increasing anger. Their friend Yvan (Littlejohn) is focused on his upcoming wedding and his hated new job as a stationery salesman. Basically an insecure person, he tries his best to placate both his friends and, naturally, winds up the target for their anger. “Why,” he asks, “Do we see each other if we hate each other?” It seems that fractured friendships are unavoidable, but a saving gesture mends them, at least temporarily. The personalities of the friends are sharply detailed in the performances as their characters are, by turn, sympathetic and abrasive. It is impossible to hear the fast-paced dialogue without something hitting home. And there are plenty of laughs, possibly of recognition. Here the point of contention is art. In reality it could be anything.
Art” plays at 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday. For reservations, call 773-3722.