Pahl's Pen

Thoughts About Janus Theatre’s ‘ART’
By Richard Pahl

A pioneer of site-specific theatre in the northwest Chicago suburbs, Janus Theatre Company's newest production, Art by Yasmina Reza, is staged in the sparkling, contemporary Seigle Gallery at Elgin Artspace Lofts. The playing area consists of a rug, a bench, three chairs and an easel, surrounded by four walls of colorful framed art, courtesy of Yellow House Artists. It is a glorious setting!

This comedic and dramatic play explores the 15-year friendship between three grown, cultured men as seen through the prism of their love for art. Sean Hargadon plays Marc, a hardline classicist; Justin Schaller portrays the tightly wound Serge with a taste for the contemporary; Michael Wagman is open-minded, highly stressed Yvan who is frequently caught in the middle.

In a series of vignettes, we get to know these three friends who are unafraid to say terrible things to and about one another. They are constantly examining and dissecting their interactions and their favorite subject, art. They share confidences, seek approval, admit disappointments, and play rough.  Realizations and decisions are made. The shifting alliances are unexpected and thrilling!

Janus Theatre has scheduled this play and its entire 19th season with an eye to promoting community discussion about what constitutes art. This production with its sometimes sly, sometimes explosive dialogue touches upon one's understanding of art and culture, artistic taste, divergent opinions about art, the monetary value of art, the fashionableness of trendy artists, art's surprise value, snobbery, and the happiness or prestige that owning art provides.

As is usual for Janus Theatre, this intimate performance features characters speaking directly to audience members and sometimes invading their personal space. It is by no means participatory; nevertheless the audience is effectively, willingly drawn into the discussion and ideas of the play.

Kudos to Co-Directors Sean Hargadon and Tara Morrison and the entire production staff for their clean, focused work on this stimulating production. If you have any passion for art or theatre or friendship, you should see this thrilling production. Go early, take some friends, grab a beverage, admire the artwork, enjoy the bumpy ride, and then take some time to talk about art and friendship!

Richard Pahl is an actor, director, and writer, who has worked in professional, community, and college theater for close to 40 years. He has traveled the country plying his trade at various regional theaters. He was the creator of both Playwrights' Advocate and Page To Stage - incubators for new play production, where local and regional plays were commissioned and simply staged in front of live audiences, providing critical feedback for the playwrights. Pahl also served proudly on the Elgin Cultural Arts Commission from 2007-2014.