Put on your thinking caps and bring along your funny bone and head to the James F. Dean Theatre for some passionate humor with Steve Martin. Not Steve Martin the actor and comedian, but Steve Martin the writer. Picasso at the Lapin Agile, pronounced with a French flare, just opened Friday night and will be running the next two weeks.
With a sparkle of eccentric nonsense and philosophic conversation, the play explores the idea of what might have happened if two historical figures in their early twenties and on the verge of achieving greatness, such as Albert Einstein and Pablo Picasso, were to have bumped into each other.
The play takes place at a trendy bar in Montmartre, France called the Lapin Agile, which literally means "Nimble Rabbit." It became known by that name when artist Andre Gill in 1875 painted the bar's sign depicting a rabbit jumping out of a saucepan. By 1904, the year the proposed meeting takes place, the bar was a favorite spot for struggling artists and writers, thus the reason for all the pictures hanging on the wall of this one scene play.
The play begins with the bartender, Freddy(Geoff Jordan), preparing for its open. The first person to arrive at the Lapin Agile was an older gentleman(Larry Wineland) followed shortly thereafter by waitress Germaine(Blair Cadden) and then Albert Einstein (David Barr), who proceeds to state his reason for being there - an expectation of meeting up with a red-headed woman(Victoria Hartshorn) he had just met.
Although the prearranged rendezvous was supposed to take place at another establishment, Einstein reasoned he would likely meet her at the Lapin Agile despite the agreed upon location. "We have similar minds," Einstein confidently stated with scientific certainty. "I am here, so she will come here." Conversations between the characters ensue with Einstein weighing in occasionally with his perspective. Einstein identifies himself and Freddy expresses doubt over his claim until Einstein proceeds to mess his hair up, and from that singular moment the laughs begin.
Freddy tells a supposedly funny story of a man wanting a baker to make him a cake in the shape of an "e" that nobody gets and Einstein proceeds to demonstrate why out of the alphabet the choice of "e" made more sense. The older gentleman tells a sad story about a woman he made love with and makes constant trips to the bathroom because he has a problem common to men his age. The very same bathroom from which an unnamed man(Alan Garner) with long sideburns and blue shoes emerges in a puff of smoke from the future. Germaine conceals a dirty little secret and Pablo Picasso played by Peter Ferneding gets to kiss all the pretty girls because Pablo loves woman about as much as he loves his art, but is notorious for using them. There was also a ponderous amount of discussion aimed at a painting of sheep.
The play contains a diverse assortment of characters fitly compiled by director JC Conway and assistant Jean Gatson. The wildly dressed oddball by the name of Charles Dabernow Schmendiman, a character who claimed to be as great as Einstein and Picasso, was amusingly portrayed by Robert Frank. Watching him perform reminded me of Harold Hill from "The Music Man" only hopped-up on red bull, and I mean that in a good way. His comical enthusiasm lit up the set. What would a play about Picasso be without a testy art dealer named Sagot(Chad Estel) and a beautiful blonde for a pleasant distraction by the name of Suzanne(Lizzie Mears).
A few enjoyable highlights were David Barr's engaging rendition of Einstein explaining the logic of the pie made in the shape of an "e" and Blair Cadden's depiction of Germaine's sagacious chastisement of Picasso for his love'em and leave'em ways. And then, there was the "dueling of the pencils."
There are moments that will leave you thinking, "Wow, I didn't know that," long after the play ends. If you pay close attention, you will be able to catch the subtle, historical tidbits intertwined with the punch lines.
For a delightful evening of comedy Steve Martin style, pick a date and come on over to the home of the Flowertown Players, the James F. Dean Theatre in Summerville. For show times and to purchase tickets, click on this link- Picasso at the Lapin Agile.