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BWW Review: The Alley's PICASSO AT THE LAPIN AGILE is an intellectual 'Laff Riot'.

BWW Review: The Alley's PICASSO AT THE LAPIN AGILE is an intellectual 'Laff Riot'.

What can one say about a 90-minute play in which every other line is a punch line, and the plot really doesn't matter? I guess I'll find out.

Steve Martin's PICASSO AT THE LAPIN AGILE is one of those plays. Briefly, Picasso and Einstein (who never met in real life) meet in a Parisian bar, the Lapin Agile, in 1904, and all hell breaks loose.

Along with the regular denizens of the bar, they engage in a discussion of art, physics, philosophy, drinking and sex that takes the audience on a roller coaster of laughs.

Martin, who apparently knows a lot about all the above, creates a multi-layered confection that tickles the funny bone while it stimulates the brain.

And that is the genius of the piece. No matter where you may be on the subjects presented, there will be a joke. Some are admittedly more intellectual than others. There are physics jokes and art history jokes that aim rather high, but they always come back to earth with a laugh. I didn't see anyone in the audience that didn't laugh at something.

The company of actors cast in this high-brow farce is superb, and they seem to be having as much fun as the audience.

They are, in order of appearance - and there is a delightful breaking of the fourth wall considering this conceit - Shawn Hamilton as "Freddy" the much put-upon owner of the Lapin Agile, knowledgeable in art, but challenged by accounting.

Torrey Hanson is the bemused "Gaston", a regular at the bar, whose libido is still in high gear, but whose advancing age is beginning to make it difficult to follow through.

Elizabeth Bunch is "Germaine", Freddy's wife and partner in the bar, a little jaded by the life, but ready with a quick jab to the male ego.

Einstein is played earnestly by Dylan Godwin, struggling to reconcile his great mind with the ordinary - an extraordinary - situation in which he finds himself.

Melissa Pritchett essays the role of "Suzanne/ A Female Admirer/Countess" with all the sexual energy of a 60's groupie and a turn-of-the-century coquette.

Todd Waite is "Sagot", the unabashedly opportunistic and venal art dealer, bamboozling everyone and getting away with it.

Finally, enter Joseph Castillo-Midyett as Picasso, the epitome of artistic bravado, almost too big for the room, who seems to take up all the air, even though the regulars, unimpressed, take him in stride.

Then, in an unsuccessful bid to top everything that came before, there's Chris Hutchinson as "Charles Dabernow Schmendiman", a legend in his own mind. His audience is nonplussed.

And last, but not least, is Jay Sullivan as "A Visitor", who brings an entirely new perspective to the proceedings and leads into a smash finale.

Since the plot of the play is not really the thing, and because there are some surprises that would spoil the fun, I have concentrated on the great performances instead, and well-deserved kudos to all.

As you may have surmised, I loved the show.

The superb production deserves a vote of appreciation to Director Sanford Robbins and his production team of Kevin Rigdon, Tricia Barasmian, Lindsay Jones, Pamela Prather, Brandon Wienbrenner and Kristen Larson for the sets and lighting, costume design, music and sound design, voice coaching, assistant to the director and stage management.

Go see this one. You'll be glad you did.

PICASSO AT THE LAPIN AGILE runs through June 3 at the Alley's Hubbard Theatre.

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From This Author Gary Laird