Theatre review: A PICASSO

October 23, 2014
3 mins read

The 5 & Dime Theatre, opened the first play of the 2014-2015 season with Jeffery Hatcher‘s “A Picasso.” The show will run through October 26, 2014 at the theatre’s new downtown location, The 5 & Dime Warehouse, located at 648-B East Union Street, in Jacksonville, Florida. ”

Although World War II ended almost seventy years ago, it remains a constant source of stories for authors, filmmakers, and playwrights. The Nazi era has been portrayed in many notable musicals, including “Cabaret,” “The Sound of Music,” and “The Producers.” On television “Hogan’s Heroes” was a big hit, and remains in circulation on cable. “A Picasso” debuted in Philadelphia in 2003, and made its Broadway appearance in 2005.

The play takes place in Nazi-occupied Paris in 1941. The setting is the basement of a government building where many art works, confiscated by the Nazis, have been stored.

Pablo Picasso, who at age 59 is a world famous painter acknowledged as an artistic genius, has been ordered there by Nazi authorities to meet with Miss Fischer, a representative of the German ministry of culture, at the request of her boss Joseph Goebbels. The reason: to authenticate three of Picasso’s works of art. Goebbels is planning to collect and publicly burn the “degenerate” works of prominent artists, and he wants to make sure the paintings designated for the bonfire are genuine.

Fischer and Picasso engage in a battle of words and wits throughout this one-act play, which is about ninety minutes long. He at first says that all three of the paintings are genuine, but retracts this after he learns they are designated for destruction. She advises him they have no choice, he must provide at least one genuine Picasso for her to submit to Goebbels. The ensuing discussion includes thoughts about his life, his loves, his friends, the nature and uses of art, and “Guernica,” his famous painting that portrays civilian deaths during the ravaging of a lovely town in Picasso’s native Spain.

Director Caryl Butterley commands a superb cast! She has assembled a piece of history that makes good theatre; it is based on actual events and is interesting and provocative.

Rick De Spain is Pablo Picasso. His is a confrontational character study in a performance that is sharply and creatively delineated. With the womanizing Picasso, there is a sexual undercurrent throughout as he unfurls his massive ego with an acid tongue that can be both insulting and humorous. De Spain has done many memorable roles since the 1980s and was seen most recently in “The Pittman Painters” with The 5 & Dime in 2011.

Karen Overstreet is persistent as Miss Fischer, pressured to succeed to please her Third Reich superiors to insure her own survival. There is more depth to this character than is initially apparent, but to reveal more would be a spoiler. Chalk up another fine performance for this talented and versatile actress whom we saw in a role filled with comedy as Pamela in “The Fox on the Fairway” at Players by the Sea and the nurturing Laura in “Tea and Sympathy.” She brings considerable charm and magnetism to a difficult and often unsympathetic role.

The 5 & Dime’s new home , a warehouse, was picture-perfect for Set Designer Lee Hamby who added covered stacks of paintings, rusted corrugated metal siding, and a table and chairs for the realistic setting. The simple light design by Hunter Booth was as stark as the subject matter. Costume Designer Amy Tillotson had Picasso in casual street clothes, and Ms. Overstreet in a severe tailored suit.

The play rarely lags, as it unfurls in a single scene. You don’t have to have to know a lot about Picasso or his work to understand or enjoy this play. The program has two pages of information about Guernica and looted art work that is helpful to read before the show starts.

The 5 & Dime Warehouse, while industrial, was adapted to provide a remarkably welcoming performance space for the enthusiastic audience, and will be used for other productions from time to time, as well as for auditions and rehearsals, and storage for flats and production materials. In accordance with their nomadic past, they will be performing at various other interesting venues as they become available.

The 5 & Dime recently obtained recognition as a 501c3 Non-Profit Organization, and is now eligible for grants and financial donations. The group, which launched its first production in 2011, is still a relatively young theatre company with a mandate to produce socially relevant character driven plays for contemporary audiences. They have certainly lived up to that mandate in their first few years, and we are looking forward to future productions.

Don’t miss “A Picasso” with its intriguing story and exceptionally fine acting and direction., for additional information and tickets.

The Dual Critics of EU Jacksonville have been reviewing plays together for the past nine years. Dick Kerekes has been a critic since 1980, starting with The First Coast Entertainer and continuing as the paper morphed into EU Jacksonville. Leisla Sansom wrote reviews from time to time in the early 80s, but was otherwise occupied in the business world. As a writing team, they have attended almost thirty Humana Festivals of New America Plays at Actors Theatre in Louisville, Kentucky, and many of the annual conferences sponsored by the American Theatre Critics Association, which are held in cities throughout the country.

They have reviewed plays in Cincinnati, Chicago, Miami, Sarasota, Minneapolis, Orlando, New York, Philadelphia, Sarasota, San Francisco, Shepherdstown, and The Eugene O’Neill Center in Waterford, Massachusetts. They currently review about one hundred plays annually in the North Florida area theaters, which include community, college, university, and professional productions.

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