Theatre Mirror Reviews - "Picasso at The Lapin Agile"

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note: entire contents copyright 2001 by Larry Stark


"Picasso at The Lapin Agile"

by Steve Martin
Directed by Donna Johns

Set Design by Larry Banks, Jim Lynch
Lighting Design by Hugh Thompson, Max MacLean
Costume Design by Diana Poulos
Sound Design by Sam Johns
Properties by Debbie Steiner
Production Manager Hugh Thompson
Stage Manager Ann Sheehan

Gaston......................................Robert Runck
Freddy...........................................Ted Arcidi
Germaine........................................Kim Anton
Albert Einstein.............................Gordon Ellis
Suzanne..............................Jacey Bokuniewicz
Sagot.............................................Jon Nuquist
Pablo Picasso........................Carlos Zalduondo
Charles Dabernow Schmendiman...Steve Smith
The Countess..........................Judith Mahoney
A Female Admirer...................Kelly McCarthy
A "Visitor"......................................Jesse Riley

Until tonight I thought of Steve Martin as a clever comic who did --- and wrote --- lightweight shtick. But Director Donna Johns and an inspired cast of Winchester Players took his comedy "Picasso at the Lapin Agile" seriously and found, under the cheap laughs, a bubbling intellectual humor both thoughtful, insightful, and funny as hell. Who says highbrow humor is a bore? Who says Steve Martin is a lightweight? Not I. Not any more!

I don't mean there aren't easy laughs here ("Let's all say a word in front of this new camera that makes our faces smile --- like 'Matisse'!" But Picasso demands "How about just 'cheese'?" and the whole group shouts in unison "Fromage!") --- but they're a lot less subtle than the famous Visitor from The Future cautioning "Watch the shoes!" pointing to his blue-suedes, or the odd fact that after mentioning a fourth dimension several times, an actual time-traveller appears to complete the "triangle" of famous 20th century shapers in that bar in 1904.

At an even deeper level, though, this cast rarely sticks to shtick, instead playing all these characters --- famous or not --- as people who take what each other says seriously and think about what they hear and what they say. Each one, from Freddy the bartender (Robert Runic) to Albert Einstein himself (Gordon Ellis) to the soon-to-be-nobody Charles Dabernow Schmendimen (Steve Smith) to the lustily love-sick Suzanne (Jacey Bokuniewicz) --- each one shows life and thought beneath the clever patter so the audience can think while laughing.

And, unlike comic actors who wait for cues before turning on, this cast is on, interested and involved even with nothing to say. Catch the grins and winks Freddy exchanges with his waitress wife (Kim Anton) as they watch Suzanne get involved with Einstein and then Picasso. Watch the "newly old" Gaston (Robert Runck) pop out of the crowd with an apt comment. Watch the pseudo-aesthete art dealer (Jon Nuquist) lecture on un-saleable subjects for paintings, or the crowding cast including a Countess (Judith Mahoney) and a teen-ager (Kelly McCarthy) saying "Fromage!" for their famous group portrait. And watch them marvel at the miracle-working visitor from a future Memphis brush the glittering Star dust from his slicked hair and gyrating hips. This is an ensemble!

The Winchester Players have turned the first few rows into cabaret tables (with some of the exits and entrances through the audience) and invited painters, singers, musicians and sketchers to work during the show and in the act-break, filing out an atmosphere of turned-century artistic furor. And there are no fake French accents getting in the way of exuberant articulation. (Picasso maintains a faint Spanish lilt, but Carlos Zalduondo comes by it honestly!)
The whole is a sublime night of merriment proving that taking comedy seriously only adds to the fun.

Love,
===Anon.


"Picasso at The Lapin Agile" (3 - 11 November)
WINCHESTER PLAYERS
Winchester Unitarian Church, Main Street & Mystic Vallety Parkway, WINCHESTER, MA
1 (781)729.1409


THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide

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