Elgin Art Showcase presents play about ‘Art’
By Annie Alleman For Sun-Times Media May 24, 2012 9:16AM
♦ May 25-June 3
♦ Elgin Art Showcase, 164 Division St., Eighth Floor, Elgin
♦ Tickets, $35-$15
♦ (847) 951-1515
Three friends, one painting, and all you-know-what breaks loose.
That’s how Bill Barry Jr. of Carol Stream describes the play “Art,” which he is directing at the Elgin Art Showcase. Show times are at 8 p.m. May 25, 26, 31 and June 1 and 2; and 3 p.m. May 27 and June 3.
Prufrock Productions of Carol Stream presents “Art,” by Yasmina Reza, as the inaugural production for Industrial Strength Theatre. “Art” is the winner of the 1996 Olivier Award for Best Comedy and the 1998 winner of the Tony Award for Best Play.
“It’s the story of three friends, one of which has bought a painting. It’s a white painting with white lines. That’s all it is, a piece of white canvas,” Barry said. “He shows it to his best friend, and his best friend hates it and starts calling him names. He can’t believe his friend paid money for something like this.
Arguments ensue, and it’s clear that the real issue has nothing to do with the painting.
“It has to do more with their friendship and how one feels betrayed because of this transaction of buying a painting (means) he no longer has influence over his friend,” he said. “So they start arguing and the third friend tries to get in the middle and be an umpire, and of course that’s the worst thing you can do. They each try to manipulate him and try and get him on their side so it’s two against one. And the catalyst is just this one painting.”
The play’s characters are men in their 50s. Barry has turned that on its ear, and cast women in the roles.
Marc is played by Lisa Savegnago of Carol Stream, Serge is played by Susan O’Byrne of Hinsdale, and Yvan is played by Jennifer Torchia of Lombard.
Barry was in the show about 10 years ago, and he remarked that he didn’t know any men who talked like that.
“I don’t know any men that actually sit around and talk about their feelings like this,” he said. “I said, I think is written for women or perhaps gay men who have more sensitivity. What it really is, is a metrosexual, European thing.”
The writer is French, and the translator is British. It played well in America, he said, because of the comedy.
“The basic gist of the story is friendships,” he said. “I think that hit home with a lot of people. What I decided is that message and the story and the comedy itself transcends genders.”
He isn’t changing their names or their genders.
“I thought it was interesting,” he said. “And as we’ve gone through rehearsals, I’ve discovered things I never would have if they didn’t throw their perspective on some of these lines. It gave me a new appreciation of the play. It’s much more fascinating than it appears at first look.”
If audiences take anything from the play, he hopes it’s the message that friendships are important.
Prufrock Productions is a new theater company Barry started, and Industrial Strength Theatre is both its company slogan and in-house theater company.
“The kind of in-your-face storytelling that is so popular in the storefronts of Chicago,” he said. “That’s what I’m trying to bring in here.”