On the wall of Marc’s flat there is a painting of a landscape seen through a window. Yvan and Marc are in the living room discussing Yvan’s recent visit to Serge’s. Yvan tells Marc that the he and Serge had a good laugh over the Antrios, and Marc is shocked. Yvan assures Marc that it was a genuine, spontaneous laugh the two of them shared. Yvan adds that it was Serge who laughed first. When Marc asks why, Yvan posits that Serge sensed that Yvan was about to laugh first, and laughed to put him at ease. Marc tells Yvan that this means the laugh was not a genuine laugh—it wasn’t a laugh for the right reason.
Marc’s painting is a landscape, a sort of sentimental and nostalgic piece that Marc is certainly nonetheless proud of. As Marc reckons with what has transpired between Serge and Yvan, he attempts to explain away his jealousy of the fact that Serge and Yvan actually bonded over the Antrios by stating that Serge could not have been genuine—he must have been coddling the poor Yvan.
Marc argues that Serge was not laughing because his painting was ridiculous—he was laughing to “ingratiate” himself to Yvan. Yvan meekly agrees. There is a silence, and then Yvan gently tells Marc that while he didn’t like the painting, he didn’t hate it. Marc tells Yvan that one can’t “hate nothing.” Yvan, however, asserts that the painting is not nothing—it is a work of art, and there is “a system behind it.” Marc begins laughing. Yvan continues asserting that the painting is an intentional and even affecting work of art, but Marc accuses him of “parroting Serge’s nonsense.”
Marc attempts to make Yvan feel useless or stupid, but Yvan tries to stand by his feelings about the painting. Marc dismisses Yvan’s opinion out of hand by describing the painting as “nothing.” Marc is attempting to be cruel to Yvan because he is angry that Yvan is not taking his side—Marc, who clearly has codependency issues certainly with Serge and to a lesser degree with Yvan, feels that his friends are against him.
Yvan tells Marc that he’s getting bitter, and that it’s unattractive. Marc tells Yvan that he hopes to become more offensive the older he gets. He berates Yvan for attempting to see something of value in Serge’s painting, and then orders Yvan to describe the feelings he experienced while looking at the painting. Yvan accuses Marc of trying to deny that Yvan is capable of having an opinion of his own about the painting. Marc asks Yvan to look him in the eye and tell him that he was moved by Serge’s painting. Yvan cannot. Marc asks Yvan if the painting made him happy.
Yvan remembers, perhaps, what Serge said about Marc’s having “atrophied,” or deteriorated and devolved into a lesser version of himself, and tells Marc that he has become “bitter.” Marc leans into this accusation and turns it into a point of pride. Marc still believes he can control Yvan’s thoughts and opinions, and as Yvan finally sees this, he tries to stay firm on his own opinion before at last encountering a question he cannot answer.
Yvan steps forward and addresses the audience. He says that of course the painting didn’t make him happy, but also says he’s not the kind of person who can say he’s happy “just like that.” He begins to try and think of a recent occasion on which he was happy, but he cannot.
Marc has assigned an arbitrary marker of value to the painting—if it could make Serge, Yvan, or even Marc happy, perhaps it would be worth something. This sends the self-reflective Yvan into a tailspin, as the Antrios forces him to confront his own inability to feel joy.
Serge steps forward out of nowhere. He tells the audience that the painting, “objectively speaking,” is not white. It has a whole range of greys, he says, and even some red. He argues that he would not like the paining if it were white. The flaw in Marc’s thinking, Serge says, is that Marc believes the painting to be white. Yvan, on the other hand, can see clearly that the painting is not, in fact, white. Serge says that he ultimately doesn’t really care what Marc thinks of the Antrios.
No one is at Serge’s flat needling him about the painting—he is slightly defensively attempting to explain it to the audience, perhaps because he knows things are getting ridiculous, or feels compelled to validate his own perception of things.
Marc steps forward, and, alone in his own monologue, wonders aloud why he is so bothered by Serge being “taken in” by modern art. Marc wishes he had used a less aggressive tone with Serge, or approached a discussion of the painting in a different way. Even though he is “physically ill” over the painting, he concedes that he should stop attacking Serge over the piece of art. He vows, from now on, to be on his best behavior with his two friends.
Marc, after a botched encounter with the sensitive Yvan, begins to realize that his behavior regarding the Antrios has been more than a little bit over the top. Note that his vow at the end of this monologue is not to be kinder or more empathetic, or to try to see the Antrios through his friends’ eyes—it is simply to deceive them by acting like a better version of himself.