Picasso at the Lapin Agile
By Steve Martin
Directed by David Russell
Starring Robert Johnson and Wesley Slade
Mad Cow Theater, Orlando FL
Third time’s a charm for me; I’ve seen this script twice before and missed hearing many laughs but tonight this show hits on all comedic cylinders. It’s just another night in a Belle Époque Parisian dive in Montmartre. The Lapin Agile hosts artists and writers; it’s a good place to find absinthe, romance and heated discussions over things most people don’t care much about. Albert Einstein (Slade) drops into meet his girlfriend The Countess (Lily E Garnett) at a different bar. This is odd as Einstein never did accept the Uncertainty Principle. Tonight he’s still working on that relativity thing but kindly spares us the Tensor math. Other members of this hemi- semi-demimonde drop in: Suzanne (Sarah Lockard) seeks out the dashing Picasso (Johnson), art dealer and raconteur Sagot (Glen Gover) wanders in to flash the free Matisse he scored, and Charley Schmendiman (Benjamin Smith) comes in to brag about how smart he is. Presiding over the show and speaking directly to the audiences we have Freddy (Joe Llorens) and his wife, mistress and barmaid Germaine (Sarah French). Lastly, there’s no Green Fairy, just the prostate fairy guarding the men’s room Gaston played by Tommy Keesling.
So why are we all here? That question leads to a spirted talk back with the consensus landing somewhere between “Art is a Science” and “Science is an Art”. Slade’s Einstein felt cocky and confident; this was a man who knew something profound but hadn’t completely explained it to the world yet partly because he had the yeoman’s task of coming up with a new branch of higher math. Art made Johnston’s johnson horny; while recharging he cranked out art so fast we still haven’t found it all. Smith’s Schmendiaman looked sharp in his matching plaid coat, vest and pants; he was vaudeville personified and shows up a key element of fame. Picasso and Einstein did something new and documented it; but if all you do is make a pile of money the best you can hope for is your name on a building or a financial crisis. The females mostly stuck to the ingénue roles. It’s pure sex, and if that sex involves a famous dude, so much the better. Sarah French’s Germaine has seen it all, Sarah Lockard’s Suzan wants to see more of it, and the Female Admirer (Karie Ford) is eager to buy tickets to the next show. How do you get women? Martin teaches: Get famous first.
As comedies go, this one explores far out on the “why are we all here?” axes. True, there are jokes and gags and spit takes (or there ought to be) but deep down Martin examines both our place in the universe and “What does it all mean?” vs. “Bartender! Another round plus some jaeger shots!” This is a challenging play and the comedy on the page quite fragile. Thanks to comedy mega-director Dave Russel, this show is in good hands and delivers on the promise one expects from a wild and crazy Steve Martin script.
For more information on Mad Cow, please visit http://www.madcowtheatre.com