Art is an outstanding comedy about three men whose friendship is tested by something seemingly trivial. The camaraderie of their barkada is threatened when one member of the group buys a painting that the others find too expensive and is meaningless. This play staged by Little Boy Productions and Actor's Actors Inc. is a story of what every friendship goes through—how people with different personalities come together, the good times, the inevitable fights and, of course, the reconciliation.
The set was not designed to impress the audience and call attention to itself. A sofa, two chairs, and a coffee table (all white) were all there was to it. And how could you miss the infamous 4x5 feet white frame with white lines running diagonally across the painting? This is the "art" that started it all. Minimal? Yes. But enough. The simple abstract in dispute and the minimalist set made sure that nothing would distract the audience from the witty dialogue. And with the competent cast—Jett Pangan, Michael de Mesa, and Ricky Davao—one couldn't be distracted too much anyway.
The Dawn vocalist Jett Pangan plays Mar, the opinionated and highly irritable leader of the group. Despite his strong personality, he can't deal with the fact that Serge's interests have changed nor can he accept that Jun has transformed from being a decisive character into a spineless coward. Being the practical one, Mar reacts strongly to Serge's purchase of a piece of art: it's exorbitant cost and meaninglessness is beyond him. Mar's cynical laugh is one to be remembered.
Michael de Mesa is the sophisticated dermatologist Serge. His smooth delivery and gentle manner is a complete contrast to Mar's domineering character. Serge's love for contemporary art, modernism, and openness to change fuels Mar's cynicism and resentment.
Taking the middle ground is Jun, played by Ricky Davao. The adorable fencesitter has dialogues that range from his very emotional delivery of kilometric lines to short peacekeeper-wannabe responses like, "Oo, Oo nga." Surprisingly, beneath his comic exterior, Jun hides a lot of insecurities and has to deal with his own personal problems. His futile attempts to keep the peace in their barkada had the audience in stitches from start to finish.
The play starts with Serge having an argument with Mar after seeing the controversial painting. Mar tries to win Jun's sympathy on the issue but he refuses to side with anyone in this lose-lose battle.
Their argument on the merits (or lack of it) of the painting branches out to more personal problems: Serge's dislike of Mar's girlfriend, Paula; Jun's insecurities about his job; Mar and Serge not wanting Jun to push through with his wedding, etc. The mood intensifies as more issues—related or not to the painting in question—arise.
Art was very enjoyable from the very first minute until the final curtain bow, even exceeding the audience's high expectations of the powerhouse cast. The script was well written, the lines well delivered and clearly heard. The crowd responded very well; laughing when called for, eyes wide with anticipation. This comedy can be appreciated by children and adults alike.
It's impressive how the play managed to impart a valuable lesson from an act as mundane as buying a painting. The scene that struck me most was when Serge (spotlight on him) asked himself,"Nagalit ba siya sa akin dahil sa pagbili ko ng painting o dati pa ba ito?" Moments like these make us wonder about our relationships with our friends. Do we let them know what we don't like about them or do we let the wounds fester until they explode like Mar's outburst?
Friendships can be ruined by hurtful words or by careless actions. Bridges burn if changes cannot be accepted and if differences, trivial or not, cannot be worked out.
Art is a story of how a 15-year friendship surpassed all these obstacles.
I understand that the play exaggerated the quarrel among the three friends in order to prove a point. However, there was one scene that I felt would have been more effective had it not been too long. The three actors were incessantly arguing about different issues, which initially proved to be very entertaining and primarily showcased Ricky's talent. But as their discussion dragged on, it made me think that sometimes brevity can be a virtue.
After the play, I heard a lady say, "I'm the Jun in my barkada. I like to keep the peace."
We all have our roles to play in our own special clique. One thing is for sure, keeping the ties of friendship strong is definitely an art that will be appreciated by everyone—no questions asked.