By Piero Filpi
Ever wonder what would happen if Albert Einstein and Pablo Picasso ran into each other at a bar? Well Steve Martin did and decided to write his 1993 hit, Picasso at the Lapin Agile. The Keegan Theatre will be hosting this highly entertaining work until the end of February. It is an incredible take on two of the most influential men of the 20th century.
The play revolves around these two men who discuss the importance of genius and craft while also attempting to display how their own craft is the superior one. The play is set in 1904, which is an important aspect to note because both Picasso and Einstein were on the brink of their greatest creations. This affects the play as the audience is able to understand the process in which the artist — whether a scientist or a painter — has to go through when an idea becomes alive in the tangible world.
This however is only the basis of the plot.
Characters run on-and-off stage yelling and screaming, some do not even say a word, they simply just walk around and then leave. The unpredictable nature of the characters is mirrored by the plot itself. The audience really never knows what is going on or what they are going to get hit with in the next scene.
The intimate environment of the Keegan Theatre was a key component in the construction of the play. The cast was able to flourish because they were placed in a theatre as quaint and as warm as the Lapin Agile bar in Paris.
Catholic University’s own, Brandon McCoy, who plays the owner/bartender of the Lapin Agile, was a perfect fit. McCoy’s deadpan humor and occasional breaks of the fourth wall guided the show and gave the audience a warm, happy character one could trust straight from the beginning. Steve Martin creates Freddy the bartender as a constant in an experiment of unpredictable and just ridiculous variables. For instance, when the show is wrapping up, Elvis runs on stage and says he has a message from the future which ultimately becomes the inspiration for Picasso’s Les Demoiselles d’Avignon.
For the entirety of the play one feels as if they are watching Steve Martin act through his witty and unpredictable set of characters. Only a person as clever and snarky as Martin could have made a joke about a pie run for more than ten minutes and succeed, but only a director as great as Chris Stezin could utilize Martin’s incredible writing and make the play even more entertaining.
There’s a scene in Picasso at the Lapin Agile where an art dealer says the most difficult thing about painting is the boundaries that are placed on the craft, such as the frame or the canvas an artist must work with, but Picasso at the Lapin Agile does the exact opposite. The play refuses to paint within the line or listen to boundaries – and it succeeds brilliantly.