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Pablo Picasso and Albert Einstein meet at the turn of the 20th century to discuss the important things in life: are they out to change the world or do they just want to meet some girls?

The Sackett Group’s production of actor Steve Martin’s 1993 smart comedy, "Picasso At the Lapin Agile," directed by Don Lebowitz-Nowak, opened at Fort Greene’s Brooklyn Music School Playhouse on Sept. 15. The play marks the second season of shows produced by the theater company that is dedicated to developing itself as a professional regional theater.

With Martin’s comedic writing, practically anyone could have been on stage reading the lines and it still would have gotten laughs, but the energetic cast at the Playhouse delivered his jokes with excellent timing and exuberance. It was hard to come upon a dull moment, especially with the random appearance of an Elvis-esque country boy visiting from the future. The audience was as confused and amused as the 1904 bar patrons on stage.

The play’s action unfolds against the set of the Lapin Agile, an artists’ watering hole in Paris. Germaine (Anna Pond) and Freddy (Peter Bonilla) own the hangout, where regulars include Pablo Picasso (Billy Lane), Albert Einstein (Mark Cajigao), some Picasso groupies, and a strangely blunt yet endearing old man, Gaston (John Scheffler), who announces in every scene that he has to pee.

Because of the title, you assume that Picasso is the main character, which he is, but the entire production is driven by the many personalities and combination of talent. Each actor has his own moment to develop his persona, even though the play takes place over the course of one day and within the same bar.

After a dueling of the pencils over who is the more talented creator - with Einstein on the verge of finishing "The Special Theory of Relativity" and Picasso about to paint the famed "Les Demoiselles D’Avignon" - the two inevitably join together in recognition that they are both shaping the 20th century.

Sound cliche? Germaine certainly thought so and makes a point to laugh at the two, saying that they only use their genius to make up for the fact that neither is handsome.

You can’t help but think Germaine is right when Picasso makes his grand entrance into Lapin Agile, stating to all in the bar he has been thinking about sex all day, and proceeds to hit on every female in his path, ready to seduce them with his artistic passion.

Although much of the character interactions are humorous and silly, the play does have a cerebral side.

Bar owners Germaine and Freddy say they are Romanticism (neo- or post-? It was never fully decided upon) and Symbolism, respectively. This is easy to dismiss when the characters briefly talk about it, but you understand that their attitudes match their given literary devices when you see Germaine’s thirst for life, and Freddy transform from a simple character to making profound judgments. The characters of Germaine and Freddy are in a relationship, and complement each other, just as the manic Picasso becomes practical Einstein’s foil.

"Picasso at the Lapin Agile" is filled with plays on words and plays on intellectuals. In talking about life, Einstein and Picasso predict that in the 20th century, the movement of a pencil creating art will be greater than any political movements, although everyone laughs at Germaine when she predicts the success of computers, wide use of airplanes and popularity of the Beatles.

The Lapin Agile, one room with scattered tables, blue walls and a stocked bar, has two faces, making it easy for anyone on-stage or off- to enjoy: Are you looking for clever jokes or thoughtful consideration about the future of civilization? The patrons of the Lapin Agile raise the question: Does your mind stretch in hope of being one of the country’s next great geniuses or can it focus only on picking up the blonde at the bar?

 

The Sackett Group’s production of "Picasso At the Lapin Agile" plays The Brooklyn Music School Playhouse (216 Felix St. at Hanson Place in Fort Greene) through Oct. 1. Performances are Thursday through Saturday at 8 pm, and at 3 pm on Sundays. Tickets are $20. For more information and to order tickets, call (212) 352-3101 or visit www.sackettgroup.org.

Updated 4:00 pm, November 10, 2010
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