ONSTAGE in Bedford
Director – Melanie Mason
Set Designer – Jim Scroggins
Lighting Designer – Michael Winters
Costume Designer – Hailey Eakle
Stage Manager – Kelly Norman
Freddy – Steven Morris
Gaston – Dennis Maher
Germaine – Staci Cook
Albert Einstein – Gregory Alan Cooke
Suzanne – Devon Rose
Sagot – William Kledas
Pablo Picasso – Matthew Stepanek
Charles Dabernow Schmendiman – Andrew Beckman
The Countess/A Female Admirer – Lindsay Hayward
A Visitor – Travis Cook
Reviewed Performance 7/19/2014
Reviewed by Elaine Plybon, Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN
“Take a couple of geniuses, put them in a room, and wow!” Gaston’s exclamation summed up the essence of the play, Picasso at the Lapin Agile (pronounced laPEN aJEEL). The play was written by the actor and comedian, Steve Martin, who described the play in this manner, “Focusing on Einstein’s Special Theory of Relativity and Picasso’s master painting, “Les Demoiselles d’Avignon,” the play attempts to explain, in a light-hearted way, the similarity of the creative process involved in great leaps of imagination in art and science.” The play achieves the author’s intent. Through dialogue between Picasso and Einstein, the true impact of genius is explored. Picasso is seen as a genius of art, Einstein a genius of science. During the play, the two debate on which will have the most impact on future society.
With light-hearted supporting characters, Picasso at the Lapin Agile (translated: nimble rabbit) provided an enjoyable experience with laughter while requiring an intellectual look at genius as well as the nature of theater. Martin’s script revealed a curiosity about various theatrical effects and included lines such as “isn’t it interesting that the play fit perfectly between the turning on of the lights and the turning off of the lights.” Additionally, the action broke the fourth wall on several occasions. This feature consistently reminded me of who the author was, as his comedic style was evident.
The play takes place in one location. The set, designed by Jim Scroggins, was simple but detailed. Depicting the Parisian bar in 1904, it included a bar counter, tables and chairs, and various items hung on the walls. Two doors were on either side of the stage. One was the front door of the bar, the other the back door with crates outside.
Lighting design by Michael Winters was appropriate to the set. Lighting focused on Suzanne and Picasso when they spoke of previous encounters with each other, the other characters continuing on with business.
Hailey Eakle designed and gathered costumes that complemented the setting well. Bartender Freddy wore a white shirt and vest with arm garters. Germaine wore a pretty lavender blouse over a long black skirt, reminiscent of the period and locale. Einstein was recognizable, even as a young man, with his round spectacles and smart, black suit. Picasso was seen in his working clothes, covered in smears and spots of paint. All of the action takes place over the course of a few hours so there was no need for costume changes.
The cast worked well together. Director Melanie Mason brought together a group that, for the most part, showed experience and talent while keeping the energy and timing on target.
Einstein was played by Gregory Alan Cooke, and his upright stance and frequent, thoughtful upward gaze befitted the scientific genius. He carried himself as one who thought a lot of his own ability and perfectly displayed the wonder and confusion of his character when things didn’t quite go the way Einstein planned.
Matthew Stepanek as Pablo Picasso was spot on. Suzanne introduced some of Picasso’s characteristics before Stepanek entered, and he delivered on those characteristics with flair. With great flourish, hand motions and a distinct pronunciation of the name, “Picasso”, Stepanek perfectly portrayed a womanizing artist. His facial expressions added to the depth of meaning and his behavior during the photo session at the end of the play was hilarious.
Dennis Maher was a delight as Gaston, the elderly gentleman who constantly thought about sex and the need to urinate. His facial expressions often told as much of a story as did the delivery of his lines. Maher was a perfect match for this character. With thoughtful, inquisitive and slightly grumpy demeanor, he projected a persona that complemented the action in the play.
Staci Cook was believable in the role of Germaine, the barmaid and Freddy’s girlfriend. Of all of the actors, Cook expertly performed with a consistent and correct French accent throughout the play. Her style, as she floated across the stage, or her conspiratorial looks as she talked about lovers past and present was exactly right for each occurrence.
Devon Rose’s facial expressions and body language were perfect as she portrayed Suzanne, a former lover of Picasso who would like to see him again. Rose accurately portrayed a woman who wants to be strong but tends to be pliable in Picasso’s arms. As Rose told the story of her previous encounters with Picasso, her timing was impeccable, with pauses at exactly the right moments for exactly the right amount of time.
Steven Morris’ Freddy seemed slightly out of place. His lack of an accent set him apart from the other characters. Aside from that, Morris delivered a solid, enjoyable performance.
Other actors had minor roles that added to the ambience of the bar. William Kledas, as Sagot the art dealer, was entertaining in the role. His haughty voice and snooty glances gave Sagot an air of superiority. Andrew Beckman’s performance as Charles Dabernow Schmendiman was less polished, his delivery coming across as hurried and more a recitation of lines than a portrayal of his character.
Travis Cook played a character named “A Visitor”. I won’t spoil the surprise, but Cook portrayed the very recognizable character without going over the top, as could easily be done. Cook’s raised eyebrows and tilted head at just the right time made his character a fun addition to the action.
Picasso at the Lapin Agile is a unique play requiring an intellectual perusal while enjoying cheap laughs. It’s the sort of play an audience member will either love or completely misunderstand. ONSTAGE at Bedford has done an excellent job putting together a cast that understands the action, resulting in a performance that was well-rounded and enjoyable. As a fan of Steve Martin the actor and comedian, I have found myself to also be a fan of Steve Martin the playwright.
PICASSO AT THE LAPIN AGILE
ONSTAGE in Bedford
2821 Forest Ridge Dr.
Bedford, TX 76021
Plays through August 3rd
Friday - Saturday at 8:00 pm, Sunday at 3:00 pm
Tickets are $12.00 - $14.99.
For information and to purchase tickets, visit www.onstageinbedford.com or call the box office at 817-354-6444.