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Published: Friday, 1/10/2003

Rep reprises Ms. Rose's `Art'


What if your best friend changes - engages in something you find intolerable? Embraces a religion, a pastime, or politics you believe to be trivial, idiotic, or even harmful?

Would it test your tolerance? Cause you to evaluate the common ground you currently share?

It's at the apex of such a dilemma that we meet three old friends who ask themselves what they stand to gain by continuing their friendships. And in turn, each wonders quietly, what the devil is going on with himself.

This is Art, 90 minutes of verbal velocity at the Toledo Repertoire Theatre through Jan. 25.

This one-act play is a snarling catfight, with claws fully extended and hackles raised. It's almost painful to watch as the worst comes out in each man - bitterness, condescension, lies, accusations, spinelessness, and brutal criticism. But humor leeches out some of the angst.

The clever setting is a contemporary Parisian apartment, which is “transformed” into each man's home by the mere switch of a painting, and each represents a very different taste.

Serge (Mark Standriff) has just paid a handsome fee for a large, white - all white - painting. It's by some muckitymuck who, Serge is proud to note, has three paintings at the Pompidou Centre.

Marc (Bill Delaney, a barkeep in real life) hoots at his friend's folly and derides his taste. Marc later tries to get their mutual friend, Yvan, to agree with him. But Yvan (Paul Causman, a former artistic director of The Rep, as is Standriff) is comfortable straddling the fence. He knows he's not as urbane as his buddies but carves a niche by being affable and an occasional buffoon.

These seasoned actors seem to genuinely understand their complex characters and generally do a great job with Yasmina Reza's play.

Standriff puts delightful breadth into his character. Delaney plies a rubber face with a limited range of emotion.

Causman plays Yvan with too much of a limp wrist for a man about to marry and start a family. That said, he commandeers the entire theater when he bursts into Serge's apartment, flummoxed to the max over his messy wedding plans, and delivers a stunning monologue at 180 miles per hour. It's good fun and, with almost 900 words, it's a marvel of memory.

Especially interesting about this production is that it was done locally just a year ago at Ms. Rose's Dinner Theater in Perrysburg by the same actors, director, and set designer.

So why is it at The Rep?

It was on The Rep's short list of shows, and the dinner theater cast was top-notch, said artistic director Gloria Moulopoulos. The Rep also caters to a somewhat different crowd from Ms. Rose's, she said.

Moreover, a reprised show performed at the home stage made financial sense to this venerable community theater organization that has given so much for 70 years.

“Art” is at 8 p.m. Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays and 2:30 p.m. Sundays through Jan. 25 at the Toledo Repertoire Theatre, 16 10th St. Tickets are $18 with discounts available. Information: 419-243-9277.

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