Yasmina Raza’s play “Art” is artfully delivered in Lafayette and Yellow Wood sooths your senses with mellow yellow evenings!

This week’s entertainment notebook reveals a terrific theatrical production and a great place to enjoy a glass of wine and a delightful mix of acoustic guitar and/ or other diverse musical disciplines. We are expanding the content of this article to include a few more local entertainment venues, other than just live theatre, venues that might provide another enjoyable entertainment option for you to explore!

Locally owned Yellow Wood Coffee and Tea shop located at 215 Alamo Plaza, Suite E, in the Alamo Plaza Shopping Center in Alamo, is a great alternative to the big name coffee shops. You can now join in the fun by reading poetry, vocalizing or just sitting back and enjoying a great variety of musical entertainment delivered by professional level performers. In fact, if you have the capability of entertaining others, such as singing, playing guitar, keyboards or similar small instruments, you can do so on the “Open Mic” evenings.

Starting tonight (Wednesday) you can “croon-a-toon” or play your favorite instrument on the “Open Mic”, between 6 – 8 pm (Note: they provide no piano or accompaniment)Thursday September 10th: 6 – 8 pm, you can share some poetry and/or your favorite readings. On Friday September 11th: 6 – 8 pm, Roger Allen and Steve Prochnow, guitar and vocals will entertain. This Saturday September 12th: 6 – 8 pm, Steven Moellering, pianist, will entertain.

Owner Lauren Duensing says that they are delighted to have the talented Roger Allen and Steve Prochnow return to Yellow Wood this summer. Roger and Steve bring a unique acoustic sound with their guitar combinations and rich vocals, providing varied music from the 60's until today. Roger and Steve have been playing separately around the Bay Area for many years. Their collaboration started with a chance meeting over coffee at Yellow Wood.

Dr. Steven Moellering has been teaching and performing piano in the California-East Bay Area since September of 2007. Steven continues to amaze Yellow Wood fans with talent and variety. Come enjoy Steven again or for the first time!

You can call Yellow Wood Coffee and Tea at (925) 837.1234 or visit their website at http://www.yellow-wood.net/ for more information or if you are up to “Twittering”, you can follow along at www.twitter.com/yellow_wood. This delightful venue offers a nice selection of wines, coffee, teas and wonderful goodies to tempt your pallet!

Yasmina Raza’s play “Art” is artfully delivered in Lafayette!

The Town Hall Theatre in Lafayette is currently presenting “Art”, a highly acclaimed and award winning play written by Yasmina Reza, that is a brilliantly clever as well as a delightfully funny play, a play that is at the same time, an insightful look at values, friendships and contemporary-post-modern art snobbery!

Have you ever arrived at a friend’s fashionable home invited ostensibly to share in a cup of coffee or tea and cakes, but something about the invitation is shrouded in mystery, something secret is in the air, something that you cannot quite place your finger on? Shortly after you arrive, you immediately have found yourself shuffled off to the library, or the inner foyer or the “gathering place”, where your host reveals in grand fashion, his or her latest acquisition of fine art, or statuary, or historical piece, perhaps even purchased secretly off the black market. “Tah Dah”- - there it is, the great mystery now stands in silent grandeur before you. Silence is not always golden however and within moments, your host begins to unravel the sordid and expensive details to your consternation and bewilderment.

Such is the case for three friends, Marc, Serge and Yvan, in Yasmina Reza’a “Art”, who become embroiled in a bitter debate that questions the sanity and acceptability of one of their friends, Serge (Garth Petal). Serge has just purchased a very expensive ($200,000 Francs or approximately $40,000 US dollars) contemporary, abstract modern painting which Marc finds impossible to understand! This is not just a typical contemporary piece of modern art. No, it is a rather large painting (4 by 5 feet) consisting of barely discernable gradations of white lines randomly radiating at various angles across a seemingly all white canvas.

Marc (James Hiser) is first introduced to the new painting by his friend, Serge, when Mark drops by his home. Marc stands stunned, basically unable to speak! He simply cannot believe his friend is serious, especially after Serge waxes enthusiastically for some time over his new acquisition, a painting created by a purportedly famous artist by the name of Antrios. Marc tries his best to restrain his laughter at Serge’s excitement over this new outrageously bland, completely white, non-descript canvas. Obviously stunned by what he perceives as a stupid mistake, Marc becomes more and more irritated, finally becoming vitriolic, ultimately calling the work of art a piece of SHIT!

Serge responds in anger that Marc has no knowledge of or expertise in modern art. Consequently, he does not understand it, therefore has no basis upon which to make such a judgment!

The stage lights dim and when the lights come back up, Marc is isolated from the background wherein he speaks to the audience directly, attempting to explain his frustration and anger with his friend for making what he perceives as a very foolish acquisition. He also admits that for some mysterious reason, this purchase by his friend Serge has filled him with “some indefinable unease”. Pay attention as this thought as it is a key to the author’s underlying plot or message.

In the next scene, Marc is in Yvan’s apartment telling Yvan of his displeasure with their friend Serge for spending such an unconscionable amount of money on such a ridiculous piece of art. Yvan counters that if Serge likes the painting and can afford it, what does it matter what they think? At this point, one old friend, Marc, begins the process of enrolling another old friend, Yvan, in the process of validating his point of view, contrary to the views of the third old friend, Serge. The pot begins to boil as the individuals attempt to establish their own justifications for their emotions, however diverse they may be. Yvan is more of a “milk-toast” personality and doesn’t really give a darn about the conflict, as he has enough problems of his own with his impending wedding plans and its related problems. Still he finds himself being forced as a wedge between the strongly defended and diametrically opposed opinions of his two friends. Lines are drawn and these old friends square off over the canvas, using it as an excuse to relentlessly batter one another over various failures. As their arguments become less theoretical and more personal, they border on destroying their friendships altogether.

As the play develops, you the audience, will slowly come to a new, broader understanding, not necessarily of the viability of modern art or traditional representational art or even the aesthetic values of owning art, but more importantly, of the often hidden and underlying needs that cement friendships altogether. “Art” addresses various aspects of the nature of friendship.

"Art" is the winner of the 1998 Tony Award for Best Play and the winner of the 1996 Olivier Award for Best Comedy. It is without a doubt, provocative, acerbic, wildly funny and richly rewarding. Director Søren Oliver delivers an outstanding piece of theatre with actors who define each character perfectly. While each actor’s portrayal is excellent, Dennis Markham trumps his suit with an ovation worthy monologue wherein he switches between his mother’s character and himself, portraying both characters. The truth is often just beneath the surface and this marvelous production brilliantly reveals the genius of Raza’s writings.

"Art" plays at 8 p.m. on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, with matinees on September 13th and 20th at 2 p.m., with an evening performance on Sunday the 27th at 7 p.m., and closing on October 3rd. Ticket prices range between $26.50 (seniors) and $29.50 for all other adult tickets. There is some strong language in this show, so be aware and forewarned! The Town Hall Theatre is located in the old Town Hall Community Center at 3535 School Street in downtown Lafayette, at the corner of Moraga Road and School Streets. You may call the theatre at (925) 283-1557 for additional information or reservations or online at http://www.townhalltheatre.com/ .