The Play

(Survey of Dramatic Literature)

The setting of this one-act play is the main room of a Paris apartment, which serves variously as the residence of Serge, Yvan, and Marc. The focus is on a painting, a plain canvas covered with white paint. As the play opens, Marc explains that Serge has just bought the painting for 200,000 francs (about $30,000). He thinks Serge is a fool, but Serge explains that the painter, Antrios, is well known and that Marc is ignorant about contemporary art. Moreover, Serge is hurt by Marc’s vile and pretentious laugh.

Upset by Serge’s reaction to his comments, Marc visits Yvan, who is astounded by the news of Serge’s purchase but says it is alright if it makes him happy. Marc complains that Serge now thinks of himself as a great connoisseur and questions the conciliatory Yvan’s view of the situation: “What sort of a philosophy is that, if it makes him happy?” Yvan points out that the painting is doing no harm to anyone, but Marc insists that it disturbs him because he does not like to see Serge “ripped off.” He adds that Serge has become so humorless that when he laughed at Serge’s painting, Serge did not laugh too.

When Yvan visits Serge, he admires the painting and calls the price reasonable. They laugh together, and Serge admits the purchase was “crazy.” However, Yvan is evasive, not admitting that he has spoken with Marc. Serge reveals that Marc was sardonic and cold in his evaluation of the painting. When Yvan tries to assure him that Marc is merely moody, Serge says that he does not blame Marc for not responding to his painting because he lacks training and has not gone through the necessary apprenticeship. What angers him is Marc’s insensitivity and condescension, “contempt with a really bitter edge.”...

(The entire section is 716 words.)