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Bowie Community Theatre’s Art

An abstract painting sets cast and audience wondering how well you know your friends — and yourself

photos by John Nunemaker

In 1994, French playwright Yasmina Reza wrote an intellectual comedy about friendship, the foundations upon which it’s built and the walls we erect to preserve it. Three Moliere Awards, one translation and a Tony later, Art entertains  audiences with a message that seems more relevant than ever in this era of cyber friendships. Real friendships drive us to extremes and back again in the name of harmony, as anyone who has nurtured a connection for the long haul knows, and Bowie Community Theatre does a fine job with this sitcom for aesthetes.
    Enter three middle-aged bachelors who have been compatriots for 15 years: Marc (Terry Averill), a conservative engineer; Serge (Louis B. Murray), a sophisticated doctor; and Yvon (Morey Norkin), an anxious businessman and groom-to-be. Enlightened men, they enjoy food, films and each other’s company. Then Serge does something unexpected that threatens to destroy his relationship with Marc. He buys a painting, a questionable work of art, for 200,000 francs. Marc brands him a fool and wonders how he could be friends with anyone so stupid. Insecurities give way to insults until the “arrogant nostalgia merchant” (Marc) and the “pretentious freak” (Serge) are barely speaking. “Spineless” peacemaker (Yvon) is caught in the crossfire.
    As their impasse grows, they blurt nasty four-letter truths about each other. Said truths lead them to a whole new level of self-discovery. Personal identity and validation, they learn, are both the ante and the pay-off driving them to jealous rage in the name of friendship. Marc, for all his false bravura, fears being left in the dust of Serge’s development. Chaperone your friends, he warns, or watch them slip away.
    This show is well-cast with seasoned performers who understand their characters’ vast differences.
    Averill is a slight man who uses disdainful body language to complement Marc’s acid tongue.
    As Yvon, Norkin towers over Averill and Murray. His nervous energy is so strong it could power Paris. His lengthy monologues on wedding woes and therapy prompted several episodes of spontaneous applause on opening night.
    Murray’s suave assurance is outshone only by his smile. He is a born salesman, so convincing he had me studying the painting of contention for a hint of the beauty he professed to see.
    The set is modern and stripped down so as not to distract from the complex language. With no formal acts or scenes, the dialogue unfolds in bursts much as one experiences when wandering an art gallery with a friend where each image and comment leads to greater awareness of the entire exhibit.
    Philosophers will appreciate this modern twist on classic questions. To wit, what makes a masterpiece, how well do you know your friends — and how well do you know yourself?

    Director: Joe Del Balzo. Set: Debbie Samek. Lights: Garrett Hyde. Sound: Walter Kleinfelder. Costumes: Jane Lecher.
    Playing thru March 31 at 8pm FSa; 2pm Su at Bowie Playhouse, White Marsh Park, 16500 White Marsh Park Dr., Bowie. $17 w/discounts; rsvp: 301-805-0219; bctheatre.com.