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Friday, Nov. 15, 2013

Soulstice Presents ‘Picasso at the Lapin Agile’

Martin’s Madcap Musings

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Soulstice Theatre founder Char Manny marks her final production with the company in Steve Martin’s 1993 work, Picasso at the Lapin Agile. Her direction is superb and one easily perceives the chemistry and sense of play between ensemble members who have collaborated frequently.

With beautiful period costumes (also by Manny) and a lovely box set by Dan Draeger, this production is a charming screwball romp through a fictional meeting between two of the greatest minds of the 20th century—Pablo Picasso (Josh Perkins) and Albert Einstein (Brian Myers).

Set in a Paris bar in 1904, the comedy’s serious line of philosophical questioning hinges on both men being on the verge of great works; Einstein was to pen his special relativity theory in 1905, and Picasso to paint Les Demoiselles d’Avignon in 1907. The piece achieves its greatest moment of discourse in a scene in which the two compare napkin drawings, realize that both are simultaneously formulae and aesthetic accomplishments and hail one another as brothers.

Nevertheless, speculation about the profound relation between art and science takes a back seat to the more accessible topics of seduction, aging and the outrageous pretensions of genius. Vying for the spot of most-memorable scene is an exchange between Perkins’ swaggering Picasso and the world-wise barmaid, Germaine (Jillian Smith), in which she thoroughly explicates “men like you” and heralds an age in which women can use men in much the same ways in which they themselves have been used.

Martin’s ending seems a bit slapped together—a time-traveling stranger (a disarming, glitter-drenched Stephen Pfisterer) delivers a vision of Picasso’s great painting—and yet arguably holds another poignant musing. In the end, the bar’s walls mysteriously vanish and Picasso and Einstein are pleased to find their names written in the stars. Yet, as the stranger points out, his runs above theirs “and is three times as big.” We are left to wonder what truly defines the 20th century: art, science or sheer entertainment.

Picasso at the Lapin Agile runs through Nov. 23, at the Keith Tamsett Theater, 3770 S. Pennsylvania Ave., St. Francis. For tickets, visit soulsticetheatre.org.