Marc’s friend Serge has bought a painting. It is about 5-feet-by-4 and white … completely white. The painting is the central focus of “Art,” the hilarious, powerful, fast-paced play by Yasmina Reza that will preview Thursday, May 12 for its two-week run at the Maskers Waterfront Theater, 43 Front St.

The Tony Award-winning play was originally written in French and translated by Christopher Hampton. When Serge, played by Maskers staple Erik Perkins, proudly displays his exorbitantly expensive acquisition to Marc, his response triggers an ever-escalating, impassioned conflict between them. The role of the quick-witted Marc is performed by Jason Bannister, teacher and drama director at Troy Howard Middle School.

Their friend Yvann, who is burdened by an impending wedding, is reluctantly dragged into their quarrel. The clownish Yvann is played by Jim Tatgenhorst, new to Belfast Maskers but a familiar face on Winterport Open Stage and other local theaters. With the lines drawn, the three friends square off over the questionable canvas, relentlessly battering each other over abstract ideologies, their relationships and various personal shortcomings. As the battle becomes more heated they are forced to examine the value of their longstanding friendship.

“Art” marks the return of Tobin Malone to Belfast Maskers as director. Malone, whose directing experience is extensive and varied, served as Belfast Maskers Artistic Director between 2000 and 2003. She helped design the black box-style amphitheater layout of Belfast Maskers Waterfront Theater in which “Art” will be presented. Is “Art” funny,” Malone asked herself as she dove into the project.

“I think so. There’s a lot to recognize in these characters, an enormous opportunity to laugh at ourselves, which is always good. And, the play’s main premise of what does and doesn’t constitute art is unadulterated laugh-out-loud funny,” she said.

Performances will be Thursdays through Saturdays at 7 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m., May 12 through 22. Preview and second Thursday tickets are $8; general admission tickets the rest of the run are $15, $10 for teens. The adult language in this plays makes it not suitable for children.

Tickets are available at the theater box office one hour before show times; by calling the box office at 338-9668; or at Yo Mamma’s Home, 96 Main St. Belfast Maskers is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization whose mission is to provide quality theater for and with the community. More information about this and other events can be found at BelfastMaskers.com.

VillageSoup Art/Entertainment Editor Dagney Ernest can be reached at 207-594-4401 or by email to dernest@villagesoup.com.