Art, Choice Theatre Company, at the Harrison Street Cooperative of Performing & Fine Arts. Serge likes the large, expensive white-on-white painting he’s just bought himself. His old chum Marc does not. And they’re prepared to terminate their 15-year friendship over the issue despite friend Yvan’s efforts to engineer a reconciliation. Though the source of the conflict is a pricey decoration, it could just as easily have been a recipe for blueberry grunt, a backyard shrub rooted on a property line–or a boundary between nations. The dynamic is the same whether the setting is Caracas, Kuala Lumpur, or a city in Europe or America.

The universality of Yasmina Reza’s script is further emphasized by Mark Alexander and Rhonda Stuart’s minimalist staging for Choice Theatre–an approach shared by the actors, who resist the invitation to precocity presented by Christopher Hampton’s translation. Imposing comfortably colloquial rhythms on the elevated “Who’s on first?” dialogue, they allow us to observe–indeed, anticipate–the escalation of hostilities. Focusing attention on the story’s logical progression in turn facilitates our emotional investment in the outcome, making our relief at the matter’s resolution as great as if a major war had been averted.