Reviewed by Tony Annicone
Director Mary G. Farrell takes Steve Martin's absurdist comedy, "Picasso at the Lapin Agile" and turns it into a wild and crazy show at Blackfriars Theatre. The show takes place in a Parisian cafe in 1904 where Albert Einstein(Brendan LeFebvre) and Pablo Picasso (JR Poulin) meet before the scientist transformed physics with his theory of relativity and the artist set the artworld afire with cubism style of painting. These two men plus the bartender, his mistress, an elderly barfly, Picasso's art dealer, Picasso's date, Einstein's date, a crazy inventor, his admirer and a special visitor from a later era bring out the humorous moments of this entertaining Providence College production.
Mary casts this show splendidly. Everyone fits their roles like gloves. There is not only physical humor but gestures and mere glances at the audience leads to much laughter, too. Mary always brings out the best in her performers and this show is no exception to that rule. She is aided by Jeremy Woodward who designed an enormous and decorative Parisian bar and barroom set, by Fran Gallogly who designed the early 20th century costumes and Rob Francis who designed the intricate lighting especially effective are the character's asides to the audience accompanied by lighting and sound cues timed perfectly. Great team work.
The two leads are handled by very talented students. Senior Brendan LeFebvre handles the complicated Einstein role with ease. He spouts off theories and numerical equations in rapid fire delivery. Einstein is to meet his date at another bar but she meets him there because absent minded professors do such things. Brendan fluffs his hair up when someone doesn't recognize him as Einstein, this gesture plus numerous others keep his scientific character from being boring. Luckily Brendan bears no resemblence to the elder Einstein the world remembers insuring himself of a great acting career after he graduates PC. Sophmore JR Poulin plays the title role showing his ability to play an egomaniac onstage and make him into a likeable chap at the same time. Picasso and Einstein want to be the ones to bring greatness to the 20th Century and shine like stars. JR shows his talent in his interactions with the other performers especially in trying to pick up his date who he had already slept with and the necking scene with the bartender's mistress. He is very natural in his role and acts like a veteran actor on stage. (Luckily he doesn't look like the elder Picasso the world knows either.) The gunfight scene where the two leads draw, not guns but pencils for scientific and artistic drawings is very funny. The two strong leads help make this a successful show.
The supporting characters are no slouches either. Senior Jim Kalagher as Freddy, the dumbest bartender in France is hysterical. His looks of disbelief at what he is being told and his comic timing are excellent. The long mathematic word problem he gives Einstein is hilarious and one wonders how he could have memorized such tongue twisting lines. Jim is well matched with Caroline Jackson as Germaine, his mistress. This girl lights up the stage with her witty comebacks and asides. Caroline has many great moments with the others especially the kissing scene with Picasso. It comes as a surprise and is very well done. Great job.
Three other comic roles are played by Ryan Brown as Gaston, Lauren Brown as Sagot and Michael Propster as Schmendiman. Ryan plays an old barfly who always has to urinate and announces it out loud each time. One of the funniest moments is when Ryan sings "When a Man Loves a Woman". Gaston helps to cut down the oversize egos with his biting remarks and Ryan gets the most out of all his lines. Lauren plays the crafty art dealer who makes money on all her painters. She lowers her voice to play the older woman and it makes the difference in age show. Lauren is a hoot in her aside when she snaps her fingers and mugs to the crowd like Endora on TV. Michael plays the idiot inventor who wants to use asbestos, radium and kitten's paws in his walls. Wearing a plaid suit and running around like an insane person, Michael delivers his lines wonderfully getting gales of laughter from the audience. (Erin Keller plays an admirer of his and gets to cut Picasso down to size when the artist thinks she is admiring him.)
Patti Hughes plays Suzanne, Picasso's date and Elizabeth Primiano plays the Countess, Einstein's date. Patti's entrance scene is very memorable when she asks the men to turn their heads as she changes her blouse in public. The one exception is the old man who has an eyeful.Patti plays the hurt date very well and makes Picasso squirm to get back in her good graces.She handles the naive girl role very well. Elizabeth does a good job as the egghead date of the scientist. He lets her pay for his drinks because he can't find his wallet. The last visitor to the bar from the future is Elvis played perfectly by Daniel Janeiro. This kid not only looks like Elvis but can also talk and swivel his hips like him, too. Elvis bursts the bubble for Einstein and Picasso by telling them he will outshine them both in the new century. A clever ending to this script making it a wonderful night for comedy.