BWW Reviews: PICASSO AT THE LAPIN AGILE at Long Warf Theatre
WARNING: Agile Acting Happening at the Long Warf Theatre
by Melinda Zupaniotis
Disclaimer: I have a huge crush on the playwright, Steve Martin. Yes, the comedian, Steve Martin. What - you didn't know he's also a renowned writer? He has written books, magazine articles, films and plays - this being one of them. He also is a comedian and plays the banjo. I heart him.
Bottom line: You will walk out of Long Warf Theatre feeling good - and in only 85 minutes.
"Lapin" means rabbit. More specifically, a castrated rabbit. "Agile" means as you'd expect - nimble. While the male characters abound in this comedy, I don't think anyone is necessarily castrated, though, most are definitely nimble in characterization. Plus, the pacing is nice and fast.The set seems simple but that's the first thing to fool you. More on that later. A simple bar...some tables...and some rustic paintings on the back wall set the scene for a quiet Parisian evening. However, soon action happens and we are all awaiting the arrival of THE Pablo Picasso. First, though, we must meet Einstein. Yes, that Einstein. After all, this play is a fantasy that intermingles history and crosses time. The actor playing Albert Einstein (Robbie Tann) was nothing short of brilliant, and he truly carried the show. And let me say, as Warren Zevon did in Werewolves of London, "his hair was perfect." Look for Mr. Tann in the future, for he is truly a shooting star. The barkeep, his wife, Gaston, Suzanne (the woman waiting to meet Picasso): all very well cast, very well able. In fact, Suzanne, played by Dina Shihabi, produced somewhat of a girl crush for me, for not only was she charming in her actions but delicious to look at. She ended up playing a few roles in this show, yet each one had a certain different bent, whether it be look or demeanor. Speaking of looks, the costumes were right on. Even Picasso, with his striped shirt and scarf, invoked the most subtle stereotype while still appearing authentic. The female costumes were corset-driven and lovely. A barkeep is a barkeep, however the added touch of the classic apron that is so hot in New York kitchens (charcoal with white stripes), added a fabulous touch. Lights were good - no complaints there. I could see everyone most of the time, although there were a few shadows towards the end in the last five minutes. However any problems therein are completely absolved once the final scene starts taking place and the surprise happens because not only is it set-driven but it is light-driven and they work in perfect harmony to completely surprise the audience to amazement. I won't give it away... This sound at Long Wharf is always a problem for me. When I saw Our Town this fall, the inaugural show of their 50th season, my biggest complaint was my inability to clearly hear the many actors in that show. I found that the same thing occurred intermittently in Picasso...Agile, but I attributed the problem more to the actors' projection, than anything else. I could always hear the barkeep, Freddy. I could always hear Einstein. But, there were times that I could not hear Gaston...there were times that I could not hear Suzanne/Countess. My boyfriend, who attended the show with me, might argue that it's because he thinks I am going deaf, but, I tend to think it's more to do with the Long Warf's three-quarter thrust stage in a warehouse scenario where the open space is sucking up the sound while simultaneously giving limited amplification to the audience. I appreciate a minimalistic approach to theatre, however being a professional theatre, with their ticket prices, and with the older audience that I encountered at the performance I attended, I would think that they would pay a little more attention to making sure the audience could hear the beautiful words of the amazing playwrights that they have chosen for their 50th year anniversary. All that said, the overall feeling is that this show is an absolute gem. It makes you laugh, it makes you think, and it gets you out of there in time to still get to the mall, or the nearby IKEA, and take care of all of your holiday preparation. I commend the theater for taking on this piece because I know that with the shorter script they still had to deal with the expenses of a longer production. That said, I highly encourage everyone to go see this show before it closes and to get a little taste of Steve Martin's brilliance.
Long Wharf Theatre, under the leadership of Artistic Director Gordon Edelstein and Managing Director Joshua Borenstein and in association with Jonathan Reinis Productions and Stephen Eich, presents Steve Martin's Picasso at the Lapin Agile, directed by Edelstein, running November 26 through December 21, 2014 on the Claire Tow Stage in the C. Newton Schenck Mainstage Theatre. Tickets are $25-75. Visit www.longwharf.org for more info and to purchase tickets.
The cast includes Penny Balfour (Germaine), Grayson DeJesus (Picasso), Tom Riis Farrell (Freddy), Ronald Guttman (Sagot), David Margulies (Gaston), Dina Shihabi (Suzanne/Countess/Female Admirer), Jake Silbermann (A Visitor), Jonathan Spivey (Schmendiman), and Robbie Tann (Einstein.) The creative team includes Michael Yeargan (sets), Jess Goldstein (costumes), Don Holder (lights), and David Budries (sound). Rebecca Monroe is the stage manager.