A 1990s New York Times review of Steve Martin’s absurdist comedy Picasso at the Lapin Agile says, “Martin sends ideas onstage in baggy pants, with a cigar … mix[ing] the sublime with the ridiculous [so] that they can’t be easily disentangled….” And that critic got it right. The North Raleigh Arts and Creative Theatre’s presentation also exemplifies The New York Post’s description, “You get giggles in plenty [and] moments of enlightenment….” This delightful play opened Friday, Nov. 4th, at NRACT, and runs through Sunday, Nov. 20th.
Director Jonathan McCarter has chosen the precisely perfect cast. They all have a good sense of comedy, act well, caricature their characters delightfully, work in close ensemble, and give not only the audience, but themselves one helluva good time.
The Lapin Agile is, in fact, an icon of the Montmarte artistic area of Paris; and, indeed, Pablo Diego José Francisco de Paula Juan Nepomuceno María de los Remedios Cipriano de la Santísima Trinidad Ruiz y Picasso hung out there regularly. It is unlikely that Albert Einstein did, but this is not history — this is absurdity, although most of the other characters probably did frequent the titular establishment. This comedy’s serious underpinnings involve the relative contribution to human success in the new 20th Century of the sciences versus the arts. Tempering that competition is the invented character of Mr. Charles Dabernow Schmendiman, representing the commercial industrial world.
Set designer Allison Dellinger has given us a nice, quiet, unpretentious Paris café, with bar and a couple of tables and a painting on one wall. The bartender (Joey DeSena) and waitress (Lauren Bamford) make it a comfortable place for great intellectuals to gather undisturbed.
The costumes by Rachel McKay are perfect also, with Einstein in a plaid school-boy suit, Picasso in an offbeat artsy ensemble, and three stylish costumes of the period for Kimmy Fiorentino, who fills three different roles beautifully. Schmendiman (Will Harris) is dapper in a CEO’s power suit; and Gaston’s (Mike Anderson) garb befits a bar-fly, with a silk pocket kerchief on which he dries his hands whenever he returns from the lavatory.
Jonathan King is wonderfully outlandish as Albert Einstein, a great, lanky boy with a brain full of the universe, and little experience in the worldly part of the world.
Picasso is played by David Hudson. Not quite the larger-than-life persona that we think of, nevertheless he portrayed the towering genius artist of great appeal for women and depth of mind, with conviction and determination.
Tom Barbieri shines as a surprise visitor from the future, kind of the loop-back of a Klein Bottle, who broadens the discussion of the future.
Sagot, an art hustler of the time, is played with enthusiasm and energy by Benoit Sabourin. Sabourin brings just the right amount of sleaze to the role thinly veiled behind a warm charm.
This is one the funniest shows we have seen of late, and anyone aware of the genius and talent of Steve Martin will be glad to see his work brought to life by this fine ensemble.
SECOND OPINION: Nov. 8th Triangle Review review by Pamela Vesper and Kurt Benrud: http://triangleartsandentertainment.org/2016/11/spend-a-hilarious-evening-at-nract-with-steve-martins-picasso-at-the-lapin-agile/.
North Raleigh Arts and Creative Theatre presents PICASSO AT THE LAPIN AGILE at 8 p.m. Nov. 11 and 12, 3 p.m. Nov. 13, 8 p.m. Nov. 18 and 19, and 3 p.m. Nov. 20 at 7713-51 Lead Mine Rd., Raleigh, North Carolina 27615, in the Food Lion Shopping Center.
TICKETS: $15 Sunday and $17 Friday and Saturday.
BOX OFFICE: 919-866-0228, firstname.lastname@example.org, or http://nract.org/tickets.
SHOW: http://www.nract.org/shows#/picasso-at-the-lapin-agile/ and https://www.facebook.com/events/538627986330600/.
VIDEO PREVIEW: https://www.facebook.com/events/538627986330600/permalink/541147232745342/.
PRESENTER/VENUE: http://www.nract.org/, https://www.facebook.com/NRACT, and https://twitter.com/NRACT.
Picasso at the Lapin Agile (1993 Chicago and 1995 Off-Broadway comedy): http://www.samuelfrench.com/p/2865/picasso-at-the-lapin-agile (Samuel French, Inc.), http://www.lortel.org/Archives/Production/3309 (Internet Off-Broadway Database) and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Picasso_at_the_Lapin_Agile (Wikipedia).
The Script: http://www.davidacting.ca/resources/Picasso%20at%20the%20Lapin%20Agile.pdf (David Short).
Study Guide: https://www.denvercenter.org/docs/default-source/Show-Study-Guides/all-study-guides/picasso-at-the-lapin-agile.pdf (Denver Center Theatre Company).
Steve Martin (actor, musician, playwright, screenwriter, and author): http://www.stevemartin.com/ (official website), http://www.lortel.org/Archives/CreditableEntity/6001 (Internet Off-Broadway Database), https://www.ibdb.com/broadway-cast-staff/steve-martin-95761 (Internet Broadway Database), http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0000188/ (Internet Movie Database), and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Steve_Martin (Wikipedia).
Picasso’s At the Lapin Agile (1905): http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/works-of-art/1992.391 (Metropolitan Museum of Art). Au Lapin Agile Cabaret: http://www.au-lapin-agile.com/anglais/home.htm (official website).
Jonathan McCarter (Raleigh, NC director): https://www.facebook.com/jonathandmccarter (Facebook page).
Martha Keravuori is a life-long theater artist — an actress, director, and stage manager — in North Carolina, around the country, and overseas. She has a theater degree from UNC-Greensboro, and has been active in the arts in Raleigh for the past 40 years. Martha is the retired executive director of the North Carolina Theatre Conference. Chuck Galle returned to Raleigh last year after a 17-year absence. He was active in community theater for many years, and directed the troupe of maximum-security inmates at Raleigh’s Central Prison known as the Central Prison Players. In New England, he performed on stage, on TV, and in films. He is the author of Stories I Never Told My Daughter — An Odyssey, which can be ordered on his website: http://www.chuckgalle.com/. Chuck Galle and Martha Keravuori review theater for Boom! Magazine of Cary. Click here to read more of their reviews for Boom! Magazine and here to read more of their reviews for Triangle Review and Triangle Arts and Entertainment.