Steve Martin’s thoroughly silly comedy gets a delightful airing at the T. Schreiber Studio.
Review by Ellen Wernecke
Steve Martin’s screwball dramedy “Picasso at the Lapin Agile” comes front-loaded with such a high concept that it seems set up to fail. If a young Albert Einstein and a young Pablo Picasso met in a Paris café, would anyone notice? Positing that such a meeting might change the course of their lives is risky, but doing so against a setting of prostate jokes and anachronistic music ups the ante.
So maybe “Picasso” isn’t historically accurate or even likely – that doesn’t mean it’s any less fun, especially with two historical figures who have chemistry this good. The young Einstein (Josh Marcantel) is trying to prove the theory of relativity by not meeting his sweetheart at the location they had already set. One of Picasso’s admirers (Arela Rivas) arrives to wait for him, and when Einstein sees the drawing she carries, something changes for him. The Blue Period painter (Richard Zekaria) arrives on a cloud of his own grandeur. “Can I have anything I want by just drawing it?” he asks the assembled. No argument he and Einstein have matches the sheer brilliance of their draw-off to the tune of the soundtrack of “The Good, The Bad and The Ugly.”
The eventual meeting of the greats is secondary compared to the antics of the café regulars, like a smarmy art dealer (Todd Cowdery) and a lecherous but plaintive old man (Jim Aylward). The café owner’s smart-aleck spouse (Maeve Yore) tries to help Einstein change his book so “every man on the street has got to read it.” There’s even a third visitor by the name of Schmendiman who claims he, too, is going to change history: a classic punch-up man in a mustard-colored bowler hat. The humor serves to leaven any kind of serious intent Martin might have had in the writing of “Picasso at the Lapin Ágile.” Maybe Einstein and Picasso could have had a meeting of the minds over the existence of the fourth dimension. “The 20th century has to start somewhere,” someone declares, and it may as well be here, in this whimsical uber-café set, in which pictures are taken and a surprise third-act visitor elicits the giggles.
T. Schreiber Studio, 151 W. 26th St.
Thurs-Sat. 8pm, Matinees Sun. 3pm
Tickets $25 special limited onstage seating, $20 general admission, $15 seniors and TSS students (with ID), Theatermania.com
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