Albert meets Pablo in a turn-of-the-century haunt for geniuses
By Carol Davis
CARLSBAD, California–New Village Arts Theatre in Carlsbad is currently mounting Steve Martin’s (yes THAT Steve Martin of Roxanne, Father of the Bride and The Jerk) 1993 intellectual fantasy Picasso At The Lapin Agile about two earthmovers who meet, discuss and predict the future.Just for starters the characters at the center of Martin’s imaginary world of up and coming Celebs are Pablo Picasso and Albert Einstein who were both in their 20’s when this ‘meeting’ took place.
In this little whim of (the piece is about 75 minutes long) Martin’s, he puts them together at a favorite watering hole The Lapin Agile that was known to host artists, writers, the new century avant–guarde as well as regulars. Picasso would have been 23, Einstein 25. Both were at the peak of making breakthroughs in their careers. Einstein was about ready to publish his Theory of Relativity (1905) that would change the world of physics and Picasso would enter his blue period.
But the romp isn’t about blue periods or relativity theories; it’s about a fictional meeting and conversation the two might have had, had they met. What would they talk about, you ask? How about genius, or contributions to the world, or women, sex, or the future (that’s a big one) or arts and sciences and their contribution to the world?
Played out against the background of Tim Wallace’s peach colored bar with lots and lots of paintings adorning the walls, Ashley Jenks lighting design and Mary Larson’s fitting costumes, the action (or lack there of) in the bar suddenly becomes a beehive of activity when the play opens. There is owner /bartender Freddy (Brian Abraham) and Germaine (Kristianne Kurner) who is both mistress and waitress and way ahead if her time as she predicts that there will be air travel among other things some day.
In an unusual move Freddy steps out of the playing area to take a program from an audience member claiming that Einstein came on to the scent too soon. The characters are listed in order of appearance; he came on third instead of fourth. It took everyone by surprise.
Regulars include Gaston, (Eddie Yaroch) who suffers from a weak bladder problem and is off and running to the bathroom every two minutes (the running joke), Sagot the photographer/art dealer (Sandra Ellis- Troy), the coo-coo inventor Charles Dabernow Schmendiman (Kyle Lucy), Suzanne (Amanda Morrow plays several roles) who claims to be a friend of Einstein’s and of course Picasso (Tim Parker), and the outsider Einstein (Tom Zohar) who has yet to become a somebody.
When Einstein walks in to the wrong bar looking for a woman he’s supposed to meet, Freddy becomes intrigued with the man. He’s even more fascinated when he gets stumped by a simple arithmetic problem he’s doing and finds that Einstein can solve it along with a series of more intricate ones in seconds in his head. Einstein is so unlike any of the other customers who frequent the place because he’s both unaffected and down to earth, he becomes somewhat of an odd ball in those circles and Freddy continues to be fascinated. It is Einstein rather than Picasso who centers the play.
That said, everyone seems to know Picasso who is already somewhat of a celeb and a self-absorbed womanizer who tries to seduce all the women who come through the door. It’s difficult even comparing the two. He’s a mystery to Einstein who can’t seem to make him out. When the two geniuses finally get a chance discuss their differences with pencil and paper (it’s a formula Picasso demands looking at Einstein’s notes) it turns out they agree more than not.
Using his sharp wit and quick one-two punch, Martin takes the opportunity here to conclude that the contributions each give to the world of art and science do go hand in hand and cannot exist without each other. Arts and science are after all not that much different in the final analysis as they shape the world in which we live.
And with one broad brush stroke in predicting the future, Martin brings another character in the form of an Elvis (Greg Wittman) look a like (I even bumped into one the other day at Kaiser Permanente Hospital in San Diego) in an effort to predict that perhaps some day a Las Vegas skyline may loom on the horizon along with his other predictions like air travel, clothes made of wax, the banning of smoking in restaurants, a ‘modernized Hiroshima’ and possibly a venue for stand up comedians. Why not?
Tom Zohar shares a resemblance to Einstein when he first walks into the bar neatly groomed but shortly thereafter ruffles his hair to look even more like the mad (but younger version) scientist we see pictures of in books. Zohar a talented actor in every show doesn’t disappoint as Einstein in this production. Amanda Morrow is perfect as all three women, different yet alike, Eddie Yaroch is fun as Gaston disappearing into then bathroom to relieve his kidneys and returning with a sense of relief. Brian Abraham and Kristianne Kurner play well off each other and Tim Parker plays the lover boy Picasso with an unconvincing eye but ever the flirt. Sandra Ellis-Troy is always bigger than life and Kyle Lucy is great as the over the top mad Schmendiman. All this is done under the watchful eye of director Dana Case.
New Village Arts makes the piece more enjoyable and fun than others seen by this reviewer in past productions. It plays through Dec. 9.
For more information visit www.newvillagearts.org
See you at the theatre.
Carol Davis is a San Diego based theatre reviewer. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org