Pat Launer, Center Stage on KSDS JAZZ88
September 20, 2013
You’ve heard all the stories: driven workaholic, irascible genius, inveterate womanizer. Now you can see for yourself, by spending “A Weekend with Pablo Picasso.”
The show’s creator and star, Herbert Siguenza, is an amazingly good fit: bald diminutive, antic, Spanish-speaking – and he paints !, having earned a BFA in art.
Five years ago, he crafted this portrait with the San Diego Repertory Theatre’s associate artistic director, Todd Salovey. They workshopped it here and successfully toured it to several cities, tweaking and refining it along the way.
Now Siguenza is back, establishing himself as a San Diegan, and resident artist at the Rep. His solo show was exhilarating the first time; now it’s tighter, more focused and decidedly more political. 75% of the script comprises the writings and pronouncements of Picasso, including another addition: his poetry.
It’s 1957. He’s a sprightly 76, cavorting in his jam-packed studio in the south of France, when his dealer phones with a commission from a wealthy American who’ll pay dearly for six paintings and three vases delivered by Monday morning. It’s Friday afternoon. Between paintings, he dances, prances and expounds on life, art, his Communist Party membership, and his abhorrence of what the Soviets are doing in Hungary.
He’s haunted by images of “Guernica,” his anti-war masterwork, and the lack of change in the world in the 20 years since he painted it.
He talks about and paints women, bullfights, even a member of the audience – who gets to keep the portrait. We’re identified as art students, which gives him leave to teach – mainly about the importance of passion in art and life.
We learn that he’s “the King of Trash” – saving everything from bicycle parts to old bread – turning it all into art. We hear about his wives and lovers, and his “beloved daughter Paloma” who, fallen ill, was taken to Paris by her mother, but her father chose not to go along. Sensitivity to women was never his strong suit.
But the piece is chock-full of his playfulness and joie de vivre, peppered with his political anger and anguish.
In an earlier incarnation, Siguenza painted only Picasso’s works. Now he paints his own, with the speed, energy and style of the Master.
There are a few slow spots in these 85 minutes, which are mostly riveting, thanks to Siguenza’s tour de force performance and Salovey’s imaginative direction. The projections and lighting bring a wide array of paintings to pulsating life. The set and sound are superb.
The fact that the piece keeps getting adjusted, refined and deepened would appeal to Picasso. That’s precisely how a painting develops and evolves.
“Art,” Picasso tells us, “washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.” Here’s a chance to step out of your routine and nourish your soul.
“A Weekend with Pablo Picasso” runs through October 6, at the San Diego Repertory Theatre in Horton Plaza.
©2013 PAT LAUNER