Vancouver Playhouse Theatre
PICASSO AT THE LAPIN AGILE
A one act Play By Steve Martin
Until April 11, 1998
PICASSO OVERSHADOWED BY EINSTEIN
By Patricia Fleming
I have been a fan of Steve Martin ("that Wild and Crazy Guy") since I first saw him come on stage and deliver his monologue with an arrow through his head. I knew then that this was a very funny, original guy with loads of talent, and I looked forward enormously to reviewing this play.
The Playhouse was buzzing and a lovely impressionist stage curtain created a wonderful feeling of anticipation with the audience as we wondered what lay behind? The entire Play takes place in the legendary Paris Cafe, the Lapin Agile. The year is 1903, which was a very exciting time in both the Art world and in the Science community. Picasso was very prolific, and at the height of his Blue Period (considered by many to be his best work) and Einstein was working in a Patent Office during the day and dreaming of grander, more universal things at night.
The Play revolves around the idea that Albert Einstein is in the Cafe Agile waiting for his date, and a woman (Kelly McIntosh) across the bar, is waiting to meet the much talked-about artist Picasso, who is expected to stop by the Cafe Agile that evening.
The curtain rises with the Bar owner (Daryl Shuttleworth), and his wife Germaine (Wendy Noel) talking with a regular, Gaston (Duncan Fraser) in the Cafe, when Einstein (David Storch) enters. Mr. Storch possesses a very compelling stage presence. His Einstein is part Chaplin, and he brought great energy and commitment to the role, and his terrific accent and physicality made him an Einstein we could love.
Picasso (Alex Ferguson) eventually enters the Bar and he and Einstein exchange words on how creative, unique and somewhat alike they are in their quest for truth and beauty. Unfortunately, Picasso wasn't a match for Einstein in that Einstein had all the good lines and he thus overshadowed the great Picasso. This was disappointing for me, as I had hoped that these two two great titans in their respective fields would have enjoyed equal time on stage -- then real verbal sparks would had flown -- , but Alex Ferguson's Picasso didn't have the forceful energy and presence a Picasso at the height of his creativity would probably have possessed. Einstein had sight gags and did cardwheels across the stage: Picasso wasn't allowed to do much of anything.
About two thirds of the way though the Play, "Steve Martin" appeared. Meaning, his wild and wacky humour intervened and the Play became more surreal and it turned into something else. A wacky character called Schmendiman was introduced and a visiting "genius" from the world of music appeared in a white suit (guess who?) and the conversations then became littered with references to art and the 20th century. I would have preferred more dialogue between Einstein and Picasso, and less of the added characters noted above, but the Play was very funny in places and overall, enjoyable. We all laughed a lot and some of the lines were terrific.
The Play ended with a closing set transformation that was most interesting. Carolyn Smith's set design was definitely one of the real pluses to this production.
Copyright 1998 Patricia Fleming