Is it “Art” — or something else? Judge for yourself at Sleuth’s.

Marian Mantovani says the play she's directing, "Art," will keep audiences laughing.

ORLANDO – Is it “Art” …. or something else?
Framed and hanging on the wall, one man’s great work of art can be the next man’s hideous embarrassment. Stable friendships can go haywire when a work of art comes in-between them …
That, in any case, is the premise behind Yasmina Reza’s play, appropriately enough called “Art,” which opens on Thursday, March 10 for four performances at the Sleuth’s Mystery Dinner Show theater on International Drive.
That’s exactly what attracted Marian Mantovani to the play in the first place.
“One of the cast members brings this work of art home, and his friend doesn’t like it,” she said. “The third roommate is like Switzerland, being the neutral one.”
That painting, she said, has surprising comic implications for the feuding buddies.
“It turns out to be the breakup of a friendship,” Mantovani said.
Mantovani is directing the play for Random Magic Theatre, whose founder, Toby Pruett, is also acting in the production. It’s being produced in the Sleuth’s Mystery Dinner Show’s Garden Room, with performances on Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 9 p.m., and then a 3 p.m. matinee on Sunday, March 13. Doors open at 8 p.m. on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, and at 2 p.m. on Sunday.
Mantovani grew up in England and studied directing at the University of Alabama before relocating to Orlando. When Pruett asked her to select a play to direct for Random Magic, she knew exactly which one she wanted to stage.
“I picked ‘Art’ because of my theater history class three years ago,” she said. “I was introduced to it by my professor.”
“Art” was first produced in France in October 1994, and the comedy received two Molieres awards for Best Author and Best New Show.
It tells the story of Marc, who is invited by his friend Serge to see his newest acquisition: a canvas painted white, with fine white pinstripes across it. Marc is appalled by the purchase, and turns to their friend Yvan to help him explain what a terrible mistake it was to buy it. This piece of work leds the three friends into a discussion about the nature of contemporary art.
But if it all sounds serious and stuffy, quess again.
“The play makes me laugh,” Mantovani said. “The play also has a message – what is art. What do we perceive as art?”
To help make this an interesting night out, the Garden Room will include what Mantovani calls a “fab art display” from local artists. So patrons who take in the performance of “Art’ will have an opportunity to check out contemporary artwork by Orlando artists – and perhaps even start a few debates of their own about which ones truly should be called art, and which ones are really just …
“I literally googled names,” Mantovani said of her search for local artists to take part in this event. “I typed in ‘local artists in Orlando’ and I went to people’s Web sites, and contacted them.”
The response she got was fantastic, Mantovani added.
“Everyone I asked said yes,” she said. “We have 10 local artists coming to the shows.”
In the meantime, Mantovani said it’s a great thrill to be working in the Orlando theater world. She grew up in Yorkshire, in northern England, and used to dream of escaping her little village to someplace cosmopolitan and exciting.
“I was stuck in a small village in the middle of nowhere,” she said. “I wanted to get out of there so badly. I never went abroad because I was too poor to go anywhere.”
College brought her to the United States, and after graduation she came to Orlando, where she discovered both Pruett and his emerging Random Magic Theatre.
“Toby’s vision is he wanted to create theater randomly,” she said. “He wants to be able to do Shakespeare in a poor sense. He wants to do things like Shakespeare in a found space – where you can go and do it in a barn, for example.”
For reservations to see “Art,” call the box office at 407-363-7757 or log on to www.sleuths.com/art.

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