Theatre Mirror Reviews - "Picasso at the Lapin Agile"

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note: entire contents copyright 2004 by Carl A. Rossi


by Steve Martin
directed by James Barton

Freddy, the owner and bartender of the Lapin Agile … John Greiner-Ferris
Gaston, an older man … Robert Zawistowski
Germaine, waitress and Freddy’s girlfriend … Milena Zuccotti
Albert Einstein … Ari Vigoda
Suzanne … Jennifer Kaufmann
Sagot, Picasso’s art dealer … Michael Barbo
Pablo Picasso … Michael DiMinico
Charles Dabernow Schmendiman … Bob Williams
The Countess … Jennifer Kaufmann
A Female Admirer … Jennifer Kaufmann
A Visitor … Grant Wood

Wild-and-crazy Steve Martin’s first and best-known play, PICASSO AT THE LAPIN AGILE, depicts an imaginary meeting between two budding geniuses, Pablo Picasso and Albert Einstein, in a Parisian bar circa 1904 where they and the regulars discuss the impact of art and science on the newborn century; a time-traveling Visitor drops by with his own pokerfaced commentary. Mr. Martin’s quirky comedy is a Rubik’s cube with vaudevillian twists; it goes on longer then it should then quickly ties itself into an ending but it has a sweet heart as well as a clever brain, and there are good character turns for all involved.

The Vokes continues its winning streak with James Barton’s production, directed with deadpan tongue firmly in cheek, and his well-orchestrated ensemble is clearly having fun, onstage, though Picasso is hard to discern in Michael Diminico’s all-American quarterback; Ari Vigoda --- a grasshopper in his last life? --- and the ever-droll Grant Wood are closer to the mark as a fright-wigged Einstein and the Visitor. Whether or not Charles Dabernow Schmendiman, optimistic inventor, ever existed, here he is pure Steve Martin, and Bob Williams, all flashing eyes and teeth, plays him as such (as, no doubt, would Mr. Barton). Ironically, the most approximate impersonation is unintended: John Greiner-Ferris, as the low-keyed Freddy, gently double-taking throughout, is pure Johnny Carson with a five o’clock shadow (I kept expecting him to murmur, “Mmmmm, boy!”). Robert Zawistowski is wonderfully Falstaffian as the Norm-like barfly, ever exiting to relieve himself and returning from a different direction and wearing a different hat; the most satisfying performance --- and the most French --- comes from Milena Zuccotti as Germaine, the dry, worldly waitress who has slept with Picasso just so she could check off “painter” on her list of occupational lovers.

Those audience members who enjoy studying the Vokes’ architecture and memorabilia (ask for a backstage tour; it’s positively Dickensian) will have an additional treat with D. Schweppe’s richly detailed set, worth viewing from different angles. Van Gogh, still looking for his Great Good Place in VAN GOGH IN JAPAN (Nora Theatre), would find it, here --- not only does everybody know your name, it seems nobody has to pay for their drinks, as well.

"Picasso at the Lapin Agile" (11-27 March)
Route 20, WAYLAND, MA
1 (508) 358-4034

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England’s LIVE Theater Guide