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“Picasso at the Lapin Agile”

Long Wharf Theatre

Steve Martin’s inspired, insanely funny play, “Picasso at the Lapin Agile,” is currently enjoying a marvelous production at Long Wharf Theatre. As expertly directed by Gordon Edelstein, and featuring a wholly superlative cast, “Picasso at the Lapin Agile” can be described as the kind of evening of theatre in which just about anything can happen (and does). This kind of throw-everything-in-but-the-kitchen-sink approach doesn’t always work, but, in the case of this particular play, everything comes up aces. “Picasso at the Lapin Agile” is a crazy, hilarious, out-of-this-world kind of show that one rarely sees, so that alone would be recommendation to buy a ticket to see this play at Long Wharf Theatre. But when each individual component is as sterling as it is here—from acting, to set design, to choice of music—it makes this show absolutely indispensable viewing.

Set in a bar in Paris in 1904, the main focus of “Picasso at the Lapin Agile” is the supposed meeting of Pablo Picasso and Albert Einstein. There are several other characters in this show, but Picasso and Einstein are definitely the central players. As enacted by the fine Grayson DeJesus, Picasso is all sexual energy and swarthy good looks, while the delightful Robbie Tann’s Einstein is more intellectual and displays the requisite wild hair style that one associates with Albert Einstein. The dialogue between them is pretty nutty (like a lot of the show is) and, thanks to projections, and the beautiful set design by Michael Yeargan, one is able to see images of Picasso’s most famous paintings, as well as Einstein’s math equations, including his theory of relativity.

It should be noted, though, that “Picasso at the Lapine Agile” is about much more than just Picasso and Einstein’s meeting. In this company, each member of the cast gets their chance to shine. For sheer laughs, David Margulies’s Gaston is pretty hilarious, and his frequent comments (as well as his many trips to the rest room) are a real scream. As the bartender, Freddy, Tom Riis Farrell is an easy-going charmer, and he acts as a kind of narrator of sorts and there are even times when he interacts directly with the audience. Ronald Guttman is grand as Picasso’s art dealer and Jonathan Sivey’s lightning fast appearances as Charles Dabernow Schmendiaman are hysterically funny.

The two women in the cast are pretty great, as well. Penny Balfour, as Freddy’s girlfriend Germaine, is a voluptuous delight, making the most out of all her amusing lines. Playing three roles, the beautiful and expertly talented Dina Shihabi is a real showstopper and she adds much to the merriment of the play. As a group, the entire company expertly rides the waves of all of Steve Martin’s lunatic and outlandish scenes and dialogue, and they are also aided by a terrific group of designers, including Jess Goldstein’s period perfect costume design and Donald Holder’s astonishing lighting.

I have deliberately waited to mention the last member of the cast, the handsome and terrific Jake Silbermann, who is identified as “A Visitor” in the program. Not to give too much away, he arrives late in the show and his appearance alone throws an already wild evening into a whole other dimension. But just like all the other elements in “Picasso at the Lapin Agile,” his contribution to the play is entirely welcome and only adds to the delirious hilarity that Steve Martin and director Gordon Edelstein have conjured up.

And while there may be some audience members who won’t take to the deliciously insane antics in “Picasso at the Lapin Agile,” if you are willing to take the ride, it is definitely worth it. This play is quite unlike anything I have ever seen before, and, while, in theory, throwing as many disparate and crazy elements onstage shouldn’t work, the entire show plays like a dream. Steve Martin’s “Picasso at the Lapin Agile” is quite a work of inspired lunacy and, as such, it is highly recommended that you make a trip to Long Wharf Theatre to see it.

“Picasso at the Lapin Agile” continues performances at Long Wharf Theatre in New Haven, CT through December 21st. For tickets, please visit www.longwharf.org or call (203) 787-4282

by Zander Opper

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