Playwright Yasmina Reza’s scintillating 1994 comedy debates a variety of ideas, and you find yourself agreeing with the last comment a character makes — until the next guy says something that is just as clever. Nouveau riche Parisian dermatologist Serge (Francois Chau) purchases a 200,000 franc painting by a trendy, modern artist. The trouble is, it’s a blank, white canvas — and no amount of describing it as a masterpiece of “plain magnetic monochrome” will prevent Serge’s prissy, aesthete best pal, Marc (Bernard White), from questioning his friend’s intelligence and sanity. When Marc and Serge’s amiable buddy Yvan (Ryan Wu) attempts to make peace between the squabbling pair, it becomes clear that deep-seated hostilities undercut the various relationships — and you know there’s going to be trouble when one character starts fingering his Magic Marker. For a play with such philosophical subtext, director Alberto Isaac’s crisp and smart production gives touching attention to the characters, assisted by Christopher Hampton’s glib yet emotion-packed translation. Alan E. Muraoka’s chic, white set — minimalist except for a few Top Design–esque pieces of furniture — perfectly captures the pseudotrendy art world. White’s uptight and slightly smug Marc is hilariously passive-aggressive, while Chau’s cheerfully upbeat Serge keeps you guessing whether he’s a genius or an idiot. However, Yu’s Yvan is the showstopper — a good-natured nebbish battling both his Bridezilla fiancée and his pals’ eventually revealed low opinion of him. The play’s brilliance lies in the way it has you believing that nothing is more important than settling the question of which of the three is right in their definition of art.

Wednesdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Starts: Sept. 16. Continues through Oct. 11, 2009

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