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A Thoroughly Delightful Night at the Lapin Agile

Also see Bob's review of Creating Claire

A sharp and energetic cast is performing Steve Martin's hilarious stand-up absurdist comedy of a play Picasso at the Lapin Agile with brio at the Two River Theatre in Red Bank. Martin's dialogue will keep your mind happily engaged as you try to keep up with it. If you would like to have your brain teased by an adroit wordsmith with an off-beat sense of humor, look no further for delightful entertainment.

The one act, completely fictitious play is set in 1904 at the Lapin Agile (Nimble Rabbit), a small neighborhood bar in Paris. The owner-bartender Freddy and a lascivious old man, Gaston (whose major activity is making repeated trips to the bathroom to relieve himself), await the evening's patrons. First to arrive is a taciturn patent office clerk by the name of Albert Einstein. Yes, the Einstein who will publish his theory of relativity the following year. No, go away, Einstein. Germaine, the bar waitress, is listed ahead of you in the program, so she has to enter first. Germaine enters. Enter now, Einstein. Why are you here? Well, he is here to meet his girlfriend, whom he has an appointment to meet in another bar. Why? It'll be explained when you get to the theatre. Here comes sexy Suzanne who hopes to find womanizer Picasso. Picasso had told Suzanne that he loved her, and he gifted her with a miniature painting of her that he had drawn. When Picasso arrives, he'll make a new run at her, having completely forgotten having ever met her. Sagot, Picasso's dapper, but smarmy, agent; self proclaimed genius inventor Charles Dabernow Schmendiman; two more women; and a deceased pop culture icon from the rock 'n' roll era of the 20th century complete the evenings arrivals.

Picasso at the Lapin Agile posits that the 20th century began with the genius output of the minds of Picasso and Einstein, that genius and creativity come in varied forms and fields (look for that latter 20th century visitor), that geniuses recognize and appreciate one another and more.

What matters most is that director Hal Brooks is so in tune with the comically twisted mind of Steve Martin that each member of his cast seems to be an ideal vessel for the humor of the author. Drew Hirshfield actually brings to mind a Gene Wilder impression of Albert Einstein (even if there has never been one). Bradford Cover is a tad subtle as as Freddy, a fool who holds himself in high regard. Glenn Peters is the most broadly unaware fool as Schmendiman. Peters may have joined me in thinking that the name Schmendiman is a variation of Schmendrick. Ray DeMattis (Gaston), Emily Ackerman (Germaine), Rachel Botchan (Suzanne, et al.), Larry Paulsen (Sagot), Alfredo Narciso (Pablo Picasso) and Lucas Miller (Visitor from the Future) complete the fine ensemble. Scenic Designer Donyale Werle has provided a jewel of a barroom setting.

The Two River Theatre production has been extended an extra week and will now continue through June 13.

Picasso at the Lapin Agile continues performances (Wednesday-Saturday 8pm/ Saturday & Sunday 3pm - No Perf. 6/9) through June 13, 2010 at the Two River Theatre Company (Rechnitz Theatre), 21 Bridge Street, Red Bank, NJ 07701. Box Office: 732-345-1400; online: www.trtc.org.

Picasso at the Lapin Agile by Steve Martin; directed by Hal Brooks

Cast
Freddy.....................................Bradford Cover
Gaston........................................Ray DeMattis
Germaine...............................Emily Ackerman
Albert Einstein.........................Drew Hirshfield
Suzanne/Countess/Admirer.....Rachel Botchan
Sagor.........................................Larry Paulsen
Pablo Picasso..........................Alfredo Narciso
Charles Schmendiman.................Glenn Peters
Visitor............................................Lucas Miller


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- Bob Rendell



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