Picasso at the Lapin Agile at Theatre Jacksonville

Comedian Steve Martin’s first theatrical work, written in 1996, is PICASSO AT THE LAPIN AGILE.  Set in one of Paris’ oldest Bar-Cabarets, Martin poses the “what if” scientist Albert Einstein met artist Pablo Picasso.  Both are historical figures, but in reality the two never met.  These men were both avant garde thinkers of their time, with Einstein exploring his newly developed Theory of Relativity and Picasso exploring how to transition the science of the fourth dimension (time) into art.  Picasso’s “Les Desmoiselles d’Avignon”, his seminal work transitioning from realism to cubism was unveiled just two years after Relativity was published.

In the script, Martin demonstrates quite an understanding of the artistic models of the era, as well as the scientific trends in theoretical thinking.  The script is an absurdist farce written with Martin’s quick wit and physical comedy, and it takes a company who can pull this off.

Director Robert Gerard did a lovely job with the set design, and the costuming team had beautiful period clothing.  The choice to allow some actors to try accents and others not, is not my favorite.  Several had difficulty maintaining their accents throughout the show.  I also found the numerous forays into the audience distracting.

To portray Albert Einstein (Nicolas DeAssis) and Picasso (Levi Reeves), in fact portraying any historical figure, requires a lot of research by the actor.  Both Einstein and Picasso had many common traits, and much has been written about parallels in their careers.  They were very focused and driven, and every move they made had intent.  Both DeAssis and Reeves took a softer approach to their characters.

The show is very much an ensemble one-act, with characters moving in and out frequently.  Most believable in their presentation were Taylor Smith (Freddy) and Kailey Anderson (Germaine), who played the bartender and his wife.  Zachary Jones (Schmendiman) was very over-the-top, which might have worked if more of the other characters were also done that way.

There are numerous funny moments, but you need to go into this prepared for quite a theoretical argument.

PICASSO AT THE LAPIN AGILE is at Theatre Jacksonville, 2032 San Marco Boulevard, April 19 – May 5, 2024.  For reservations, go to theatrejax.com or call (904) 396-4425.

By Cessy Newmon



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