Last night I saw Steve Martin’s play, Picasso at the Lapin Agile. It was my first time at a play in years, my first time ever seeing my cousin-in-law act, and a play I’ve specifically wanted to see for ages. And, given my schedule, who knows how long it would be until the next play. So I had a lot riding on that play.
And they did not let me down. I had the best seat in the house (or darn close), and they had me from when I entered the theater. The bar set was spectacularly done: it felt like a place I might go one night for a drink between bouts with the Riemann Hypothesis, and the old-timey music was transporting.
In case you don’t know the play, it’s Steve Martin at the apex of his powers. Filled with comedy of every sort, time travel, and so many fourth wall breaks that it will take a dozen metaphorical carpenters to put that place back together after the show closes on Sunday, and a e-shaped pie, it’s pure entertainment. But the play also deals with very serious themes: the nature of progress, whether it is possible for one man to change history and what that even means, special relativity, the relationships between men and women, the creative process, our attitude toward the future. To see those issues played out at the turn of the LAST century only reinforces their timelessness.
As with any play, a performance can be only as good as its cast, and the cast here was top-notch. Strong performances all, no weak links.
Mouse, my cousin-in-law (without whom I might never have known this play was even happening), was marvelous as Germaine — proud to have married into your family, cuz. Who knew you had such a French accent in you?
I don’t know how old the actor who plays Gaston is in life, but he captures so totally the man’s status on the cusp of old age, so thematically important to the work.
Really, every performance was solid, but special mention should be made of the main protagonists Einstein and Picasso. They skillfully evoked our modern notions of the people without ever being caricatures, and without ever losing sight of the crucial point that these people were still young, proto-Einstein and proto-Picasso, marked not by wporld-changing achievement but by the potential for it.
Actually, the actor playing Einstein reminded me often of Gordon Kaye, a British actor best known for the WWII screwball sitcom ‘Allo ‘Allo. Which means it’s time to get those DVDs from the library and watch ’em again.
Seeing a play like this energizes me, makes me want to sit down, put pen to paper, because sooner or later someone’s going to crack the Riemann Hypothesis. And who knows, it MIGHT be today, and it MIGHT be me.