Performing `Art' and humor

Comedy: Bay Theatre's fourth play explores perceptions of art, buyers of art and friendship.


Arundel Live

January 15, 2004|By Mary Johnson | Mary Johnson,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Bay Theatre Company's coming production - Yasmina Resa's 1998 Tony-award winning play Art - will ask what is art and what is friendship, promising to evoke laughter while answering these questions.

This smart, sophisticated comedy reveals what happens to three male friends when one buys an expensive, minimalist, all-white painting by a fashionable artist and, ready to bask in their praise, invites his friends to see his $35,000 investment.

Like a tabula rasa, this artwork becomes the source of discourse on what constitutes art, and these friends' attitudes toward this art helps to define them. The buyer views himself as a sensitive art connoisseur, one friend sees him as a posturing snob, while the other friend is neutral, a fence-sitter who infuriates the new collector and his critic.

Their varying views of the purchased artwork will test their friendship while presumably providing lots of laughs. The audience can expect to gain humorous insights into its own assessment of modern art.

Art represents Bay Theatre Company's fourth play since its start a little over a year ago in Truxtun Park's Griscom Building. Its initial offering was Christopher Durang's Beyond Therapy, followed in February with David Mamet's Oleanna in Loews Hotel's Powerhouse Building.

In October, Bay Theatre presented Stephen Sondheim's Marry Me a Little - its first play and first musical in its new West Garrett Place home at 275 West St. This month's production of Art is its second play in the 85-seat theater.

"In July 2002, a few of us friends got together to read plays, and here two years later we are staging our fourth play and the second in our own space," said Lucinda Merry-Browne, who cofounded Bay Theatre with partner Janet Luby.

Annapolis residents Luby and Merry-Browne have New York theater backgrounds and shared the goal of establishing a professional regional theater in Annapolis to produce quality plays, provide theater education and give working opportunities to theater artists to practice their craft.

The Sondheim production was intended "to demonstrate our range and prove we could do a musical, although it is terribly expensive," Luby said.

The newest production will have a professional director, Steven Carpenter from Washington, said Merry-Browne, who directed the three past productions.

Luby said the production also will feature three professional actors: Carter Jahncke and Jim Chance from Annapolis, and Chris Poverman of Washington. "They all appreciate the convenience of working in Annapolis, and we are pleased to be able to bring their unique talents to this area," Luby said.

Merry-Browne said that, in line with its mission, Bay Theatre Company has scheduled workshops beginning this month for children in grades 1 to 6 and 7 to 12. Students can register by calling 410-268-1333 or by e-mail at

"Art" opens Jan. 23 and runs through Feb. 28 with Thursday, Friday and Saturday performances at 8 p.m. and Sunday shows at 3 p.m. All seats are $20 and can be reserved by calling 410-268-1333 or by e-mail at the above address.

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