Old Town Temecula

Published on June 13th, 2013

“Art” at Old Town Temecula

What is art? That is a question that has been repeated for centuries as one person’s artistic masterpiece is another person’s garbage. But is the argument over art enough to ruin relationships?

Well, that is exactly the subject matter of the Tony Award-winning play, “Art,” which is the debut performance of Theatre Arts West, a new Temecula-based theater company dedicated to developing small, intimate productions by Southern California playwrights.

The show, presented by the Theater Foundation and Temecula Presents and starring Jeff Jones, Lorin Dreyfuss and Ed Coonce, takes place Wednesday at The Merc at the Old Town Temecula Theater.

“Usually people would do something like the female version of ‘The Odd Couple’ to start with because it appeals to a different audience, but I love ‘Art’ and our goal is while we are doing theater is to support visual artists and music as well so we can grow a real arts place here in Temecula,” said Managing/Artistic Director Gailee Walker Wells.

That may be a reason for the incredible success of the piece. The original play opened on London’s West End in 1996 starring Albert Finney, and then entered Broadway in 1998-99 with Alan Alda, Victor Garber and Alred Molina, who garnered a Tony nomination for his role as Yvan.

The comedy concerns three long-time friends, Serge, Marc and Yvan, and raises questions about art and friendship. Serge is a fan of modern art, and he purchases an expensive painting that is literally nothing more than an all-white canvas. While Serge is proud of it, Marc describes it as junk, leading to considerable strain and conflict as they battle what constitutes art.

Yvan is caught in the middle, all the while his wedding date nears and his comfort zone with his friends seems to be vanishing over this artistic battle. The argument becomes more personal and the three near an end to their friendship unless cooler head prevail.

“It has so many levels so many different levels and ways to be explored. I don’t know how everybody hears something different, but they do,” said Wells. “It’s so subjective.”

It’s also precisely what the company hopes to use as a springboard to more arts in the community.

“It’s a dramatic stage reading and rehearsal movement with this, and I met with Bobby Boes, who is the director of theater foundation, and this will be the first time something like that has been done here,” Wells said. “And the theater foundation is presenting this because we have no money and it was gracious of the foundation and Temecula Presents! to give us the space for the shows.”

And the target audience is not just the community at large.

“We are hoping artists, art gallery owners, playwrights and composers will be there because we are going to have a discussion afterwards about the show and how to grow the arts here,” she said. “We landed here a few years ago and I need the arts.”

She and the group envision a bustling arts community.

“I firmly believe that with the wineries here, we need to have arts for people to do when they come for the wine,” she said. “We want people from San Diego to come up here, and people from Los Angeles to come down here. And we want people from Europe.”

And there are already ideas in the works.

“Our second project is a play I wrote called ‘Boomers Rock,’ and it’s about a dysfunctional family at a boomer age,” she said. “And the third piece we are doing is the ‘Sunset Limited.’”art