Friend Art: Now be Honest…
At the midpoint in the play, Friend Art, written by Sophia Alvarez, Kevin, the soon-to-be married and soon-to-become a law student, tells the performance artist, Lil what it means to be creating ‘Friend Art’. “It’s art that a friend makes that a person is forced to go see and/or support out of obligation to the friendship.” But doesn’t have the appeal nor the salesmanship for the public to embrace. We’ve all been there. Not to the extreme situation that is presented in the smart and funny opening scene, when we are witness to Lil (Anabelle Lemieux playing a girl we all know, and tend to stay away from) performing her stereotypical self indulgent performance art piece that is truly cringe worthy. Entering down the main aisle after the monologue has finished are the newly engaged couple, Kevin (a solid and fun Aaron Costa Ganis) and Molly (a wonderfully talented Zoe Chao) discussing what they can possibly say to Lil after her performance. As explained later in the play, it is best to focus on one positive moment, ignore the rest, and move on to celebratory drinks. But Lil wants to really know what Molly thinks. It is unclear why Lil cares so much because the longer the play careens forward, the less clarity there is on their connection/friendship. But ultimately the question presented is: does Lil really want to know, or does she want, as Molly puts it, to give her blind supportive praise? “I want you to honestly tell me how much you liked it!” says Lil to Kevin after her second monologue. Supporting of artist/friends, praising/critiquing a friend’s work and art, and holding on or letting go of artistic dreams; these are all the subjects of Friend Art. .
It’s a worthy and interesting idea for a play, and begs us all to examine our actions and motivations for working on our creative endeavors (is this very blog ‘friend art’?) but even with the fresh and surprising start to this play, it remains in the category of ‘getting there’ and ‘still needs work’, if I am being completely honest. “Are you mad at me now for speaking the truth?”
Thrown into the mix to flesh out this odd triangle, is Nate (the charming and goofy Constantine Maroulis who is quite perfect for and in this role), the formerly famous singer from an unnamed band, who is Lil’s ex-boyfriend. He’s also Kevin’s good friend (although that connection is a bit difficult to see), and is the foil who keeps pulling the newly engaged couple out of their wobbly attempt for an ordinary life. Nate’s role beyond that is unclear. He charmingly engages, innocently (?) flirts, and connects with Molly in a sexy sad-puppy manner while also trying to maintain his good man/good loyal friend attitude. These scenes maybe some of the best in terms of engagement but it remains unclear what Alverez is trying to tell us with these scenes.
Here lies one of the problems with this untidy unpolished play. Many of these encounters feel like setups rather then organic and real. The pairing off of Lil and Kevin doesn’t ring true even when explained. He tried to explain to Lil why he has shown up at her second bad art piece show in a basement theatre. He tries to explain to Molly why he offers Lil help to make her art better, but both are hard pills to swallow after the reaction we are witness to in the opening scene. One keeps waiting for the real reason to show up, but it never does. We’re suspicious of Kevin, mainly because we, like Molly, just don’t believe the explanation.
And with the pairing up of Nate and Molly, although the connecting feels far more organic, the reasons are more unclear than enlightening in the bigger scheme of things. Chao does her best making all her scenes as real and truthful as the writing allows, and she seems to elevate whomever she is working with at the time, but the motivation for each interactions seem difficult to believe. Is she there to be given the space to debate her personal confusion about walking away from her own flailing acting career? To expand on the difficulty of admiting to oneself that they don’t have the ‘stick-to-it-ness’ of someone like Lil? Or to give space to all those conflicting ideas and jealousies that are muddled up in our choices for a more stable albet conventional life versus a creative life? I’m not really sure, and I’m not really sure Molly and her future husband, Kevin ever figure it out either. Their story line needs a lot more focus and a stronger conclusion. We only learn their outcome, but no idea how or why it happened. In the other couplying, Nate and Lil’s final scene feels sweet but contrived; a bit too neat and tidy but pointless, without much insight or meaning.
So in keeping with the theme of Friend Art, I’ll say, “I really liked that one actress, Chao. She really brought out the best in everything she touched…..anyone for a drink to celebrate the opening?”
“So enough about that, what do you think of my theatre blog?”