Tacoma Little Theatre presents “Picasso at the Lapin Agile,” written by one of the funniest renaissance men to grace the entertainment world for the past 40 years – Steve Martin.
Yes, in 1993, that “wild and crazy guy” took keyboard in hand and out popped one more aspect to his insanely funny persona – he wrote his first play.
Doesn’t seem like much of an idea upon which to base one of the funniest plays to hit the stage but, it goes something like this:
It’s 1904 and you’re in Paris. You walk into a bar in Montmarte and you just happen to run into a young man talking about his theories of the universe to another young man who is expounding on his revelations of the meaning of art. The first has written a book (unpublished); the second has made some sketches and paintings (unsold).
It turns out that the would-be author is physicist Albert Einstein and the artist is Pablo Picasso. The play explores their ideas of what will happen during the Twentieth Century and how they will affect those events.
Remember, this is all before anyone has ever heard of either of the two men who bent the universe and the art world to their liking during the 1900s.
Added to the humor, the geniuses meet with the owner as well as various eccentric clients of the unpretentious bar who confirm their ideas or try to show their own worth to the century.
Blake R. York is the show’s technical director as well as set and sound designer. York does his usual excellent job of giving the actors a perfect set to work on while giving the audience a pleasing, eye-filled background for the production; more added surprises show up near the end of the second act.
Jeffery Weaver has excelled himself dressing the set with eclectic gewgaws and paintings which capture the feel of the artistic community of Montmarte.
Pavlina Morris does lights, which includes some interesting, albeit a little too dim, dim-outs offering the actor a chance to break the fourth wall and speak directly to the audience.
Michele Graves does the costume design which works well. Tracy Engels is Stage Manager.
Director Rick Hornor scores big with his direction – the script is fraught with running gags, which Hornor builds superbly to a crescendo of laughter.
In fact, the production is so funny, the audience laughs at the very first line and doesn’t stop until the middle of the second act for the one serious aspect of the show, then continues until it becomes awed by the last ten minutes before curtain. This is due to fine direction and good acting.
There are no disappointments in the cast of ten; each actor does good work, from the smallest to the largest role.
Tara Jensen is regal as the Countess, a friend of Einstein’s, who meets him at Lapin even though they were supposed to meet at a different venue – Einstein is delighted to know that she knew him well enough to know he would be at Lapin rather than where he was supposed to be. Now you get the idea of the complexities of this show. Jensen also briefly sparkles as a Female Admirer of Picasso.
Chad Russell is A Visitor – from another time – a truly unexpected person who the audience will recognize immediately because of Russell’s acting prowess.
Paul Sobrie is Sagot, the art deal who shows interest in Picasso and recognizes his potential. Sobrie plays the part of the art aficionado, waiting with baited breath for the rest of the world to discover his find, with panache.
Dan Lysne is a hoot as Charles Dabernow Schmendiman, an interloper who is determined to claim his spot in history with outlandish inventions. Lysne bursts on stage with all the calm finesse of a side-show barker – a really funny guy.
Colleen Bjurstrom is Germaine, the barmaid who is also the girlfriend of the owner. Bjursrom has a good handle on the character and plays her well.
Ana Bury is Suzanne, a new visitor to Lapin who is looking for her Picasso. Bury is charmingly sexy as the love-smitten young girl.
John Saunders is Gaston, a client at Lapin with a prostate problem. Saunders is so humorous in the role when hopping from one subject to the john and back without losing a beat.
Jacob Tice is Freddy, the owner of Lapin. Tice plays the role as a simple barman with the disinterested aplomb that is the wont of a typical barkeep until all of a sudden he hits on the perfect delivery of a throwaway line which stops the show with laughter.
Bryce Smith plays Pablo Picasso. Smith brings just the right amount of egotistic self-esteem to the role of the artistic lothario to make the audience hate him and love him; nice work.
Rodman Bolek is Albert Einstein. Bolek shines as the youth who became one of the greatest thinkers of the past century. His ultra seriousness in such a comical way shows his understanding of the playwright aim.
“Picasso at the Lapin Agile” continues at Tacoma Little Theatre at 210 North I Street through March 29 at 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays with 2 p.m. matinees Sundays.
For more information or to make reservations call the theatre at (253) 272-2281 or go online to www.tacomalittletheatre.com.
“Picasso at the Lapin Agile” takes the audience to Steve Martin’s improbable world where the author of the Theory of Relativity engages in foretelling, theological dialogue with one the art world’s greatest masters. It is an improbable trip but it sure is a wild and crazy ride.