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She's Bought a Completely White Painting

November 6, 2009 at 11:25 am
By Claire Weinberg '12

The play, put on by ETB and directed by Eric Naeseth '10 and Jesenia Ruiz '10, opens with Audrey Carlsen '12, playing Marc, standing alone in an illuminated spot of stage. "My friend Serge has bought a painting," she says. "It's a canvas about five foot by four: white." The tinge of anger and bitterness in her voice sets the scene for the rest of the play, which is deceptively titled, in that it only uses the topic of art as a pretext to discuss the conflicts that arise between old friends.

In this case, Marc feels betrayed by Serge (Susan Chambers '10)'s pretension in buying the completely white painting, disgusted by the amount she's spent on it, and infuriated by the fact that she doesn't dismiss it immediately as trash, as Marc herself does. Serge, in turn, feels that Marc has lost her sense of humor in her old age, and that she's too judgmental and doesn't understand modernism. To express their bitterness, they both turn to their mutual friend Yvan (Joe Decker '12), an unpretentious, neurotic stationery salesman who's recently lost ten pounds trying to plan his wedding to a woman he does not love, and who would rather be anywhere than stuck in the middle between his only friends. The drama culminates in an evening during which, instead of going out to eat as they'd planned, the three of them stay in to have a knock-down drag-out fight during which they go over their past, their changing tastes and their resentments, which are deeper than they seem at first.

Carlsen makes an appropriately vitriolic and curmudgeonly Marc, to whom Chambers' Serge provides a cooler, more condescending foil. The tension is palpable when they go at each other's throats. But the highlight of the show, for me at least, was Decker's Yvan. He is simultaneously tragic and hilarious, full of tics, his body coiled so tight the audience is forced to feel his nerves. In his first appearance he is searching desperately for the cap to his felt-tip pen, despondent at the idea that it might dry out. Later, in the middle of one of the tensest moments between Marc and Serge, he bursts in and rants nonstop for nearly five minutes about a phone conversation he just had with his mother, barely pausing for breath. He is heartbroken at the idea that his oldest friends might be splitting up; when they turn on him and he breaks down, it is the saddest moment in the play. I hadn't seen Decker in any plays before; let's hope he doesn't stop with this one.