By Karen Isaacs
Watching and listening to the ideas ricochet around the Long Wharf stage in its fine production of Picasso at Lapin Agile is a lot like watching a pinball machine played by a master. Just keeping up may seem like a daunting task to some viewers. Others will find it an intellectual delight.
The Stave Martin comedy, here directed by Long Wharf’s Artistic Director Gordon Edelstein, is pure fiction: a young Picasso and a young Einstein meet in a Parisian cafe in 1904 where the egos and the ideas are fully on display.
Picasso is becoming well known, both for his art and his attractiveness to the ladies. Einstein is just developing his theories while working in the patent office. But he is convinced he will meet the woman of his dreams in this bar, even though they had set another meeting place.
What happens is scarcely what matters. What does matter is how Martin keeps the ideas spinning. Ideas about art, science, creativity, ego, love, jealousy and sex. How all of them tie together and how each is dependent on the other.
While Picasso (played by Grayson DeJesus) and Einstein (played by Robbie Tan) are the central characters, they need the surrounding company to make it all work. These include the bar/cafe owner who is surprisingly familiar with art, though perhaps since his bar is on the left bank this may be it is not so surprising; his wife; an art dealer; an elderly patron; various women looking for either Picasso or Einstein, and an American inventor.
Each contributes something to the discussion of the multiple subjects of Martin’s discourse.
Edelstein has selected an outstanding cast for this production. Donald Marguilies almost steals the show as the elderly man who provides both some humor and also some of the regrets about what is no
longer possible. His timing and the warmth of his characterization, mixed with acerbity is perfect. Jonathan Spivey as the American inventor — and supreme egotist — Charles Dabernow Schmendlman — captures both the braggadocio of the character and its American “can-do” confidence.
Tom Rhs Farrell and Penny Falfour are well matched as the cafe owner and wife — he waxing philosophical about art and she setting up a rendenz-vous with Picasso.
Robbie Tann as Einstein and Grayson DeJesus as Picasso are well matched. Each portrays utter confidence in their destinies. As Einstein points out to Picasso — they both are creative geniuses.
Michael Yeargan has created a authentic looking Parisian cafe of the period and Jess Goldstein’s costumes continue the early 20th century mood. Donald Holder’s lighting designs provide subtle clues.
Edelstein’s direction is sure handed; getting the laughs but also letting the ideas flower.
Picasso at Lapin Agile (which mean agile rabbit) is good fun for those who like ideas mixed with their laughs. It runs through Dec. 21.