Center Stage with Pat Launer on KSDS JAZZ88
AIRDATE: NOVEMBER 20, 2009
So, Picasso and Einstein walk into a bar…. And the world turns upside down. Okay, it didn’t really happen like that. The two earth- shatterers may never have met. But that’s the way funnyman Steve Martin fancied it in his wildly imaginative 1993 comedy, “Picasso at the Lapin Agile.”
There actually was a bar called Lapin Agile, or Nimble Rabbit, in Paris at the turn of the last century. And Picasso did, in fact, frequent it. But in 1904, the two 20-something geniuses who changed the way we look at the world, didn’t really go mano a mano in a lively, heated discussion about which is more significant in the long run of history, Art or Science.
But this is a delicious, heady fantasy, and Martin, also a novelist who’s an avid art collector, happens to have majored in Philosophy in college. So he’s totally up to the task of creating fascinating characters who have a great deal to say, espousing a wide range of opinions on life and love. For extra fun (though it’s a bit excessive), he throws in a puffed-up, self-aggrandizing inventor, Schmendiman , who represents crass commercialism, and a mystery guest from the future (think: Pompadour, Bloat and Fringe) who puts in his bid for Celebrity as the most enduring of all.
You can watch this play on any level: as intellectual discourse, character study, the art of sexual seduction or just plain comic fun. Any way you look at it, the New Village Arts production is a knockout.
Tom Zohar and Tim Parker are killer as the wild-haired, mustachioed science nerd and the swaggering, scarf-wearing, womanizing artist. They’re surrounded by a bevy of eccentrics, each having something incisive to say. It’s a terrific ensemble, excellently directed by Dana Case. The rose-colored bar setting features a number of inside art jokes, sketches by various scribblers, some of whom went on to great glory. And of course, there’s humor at every turn. This production really mines the comic vein, without going over the top, or trivializing the discussion. It strikes a perfect balance, and makes for a perfectly delectable evening of theater.
Now, for another kind of fantasy, check out SDSU’s production of Stephen Sondheim’s “Into the Woods,” the musical fairy tale about what happens after “happily ever after.” It’s dark and funny and magical, and this is a stunning production, inventively designed and wonderfully sung. SDSU now has the country’s ONLY remaining MFA program in musical theater, and they’re at peril of going under. They really could use your support, and this is a delightful way to give it.
Great San Diego theater – of the deep and comic kind – is something to be thankful for this season.
“Into the Woods” runs through November 22 in the Don Powell Theatre on the campus of SDSU.
“Picasso at the Lapin Agile ” continues through December 6 at New Village Arts Theatre in Carlsbad .
©2009 PAT LAUNER