Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: San Diego

Picasso at the Lapin Agile
Old Globe Theatre
Review by Bill Eadie | Season Schedule

Philippe Bowgen and Justin Long
Photo by Jim Cox
Barry Edelstein, the Artistic Director of The Old Globe, claims a friendship of more than twenty years with comedian, author, and art collector Steve Martin, and he's used that friendship to lure to the Globe the world premieres of the musical Bright Star and the play Meteor Shower. Now, he's staging Mr. Martin's most well-known play, Picasso at the Lapin Agile, as part of the theatre's winter-spring season. It's a loving production, full of spirit and comradery among a cast mostly known for its work in Hollywood.

The play imagines a 1904 meeting between Pablo Picasso (Philippe Bowgen) and Albert Einstein (Justin Long) in a Montmartre bar. Picasso was already somewhat renown, but was still not a household name. He was in his "blue period" and would soon move into his "rose period." Einstein was as yet unknown, but he would publish articles in 1905 that began a new era in the study of physics.

Did sparks fly at the meeting? A little, but not all that much about the intellectual connections between two geniuses. Rather, they mostly flew about sex. The two men were similarly aged (Picasso was 23, Einstein 25), and both had at least the usual amount of interest in sex for men of that age. As did everyone else at the bar that evening. There was Gaston (Hal Linden) a neighborhood roué who suffers from bladder problems. There was Sagot (Ron Orbach), an art dealer who didn't recognize a Picasso sketch when he saw one, but knew that the sketch would be valuable one day. There was Suzanne (Liza Lapira), for whom Picasso had drawn the sketch as a seduction tool (one he used a lot, apparently). And, there was Freddy (Donald Faison), the proprietor, and Germaine (Luna VĂ©lez), the server, both of whom knew more than they generally let on.

A few other characters make cameo appearances. Two other women come into the bar (both played by Ms. Lapira). And then there is Charles Dabernow Schmendiman (Marcel Spears), who one commentator called "the most useless man in the 20th century." Mr. Schmendiman (a fictitious character who nevertheless has a Facebook page) has invented a brittle building material, which, he is convinced, will make him a fortune. Finally, late in the play, a visitor (Kevin Hafso-Koppman) appears. He is a young man who has used sex to revolutionize music, and he closes the circle surrounding sex and ideas in a surreal but satisfying manner.

Mr. Edelstein has assembled a charming company who collectively commit serious fun. John Lee Beatty's Lapin Agile may not be an accurate replica, but it is Parisian whimsy at its best. Russell Champa lights the stage in gorgeous hues and produces spectacular special effects when called upon to do so. Katherine Roth's costumes range from elegant to sexy, and Lindsay Jones provides music and sound effects to go with the lighting. James Vasquez's musical staging is inventive and contagious.

Who cares if the ideas get short shrift? Picasso at the Lapin Agile is 90 minutes with people who are sometimes wise, sometimes foolish, but always interesting.

Runs through March 12, 2017, Tuesday and Wednesday at 7:00 p.m., Thursday and Friday at 8:00 p.m., Saturday at 2:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m., and Sunday at 2:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. Tickets are available by phone at 619-23-GLOBE [234-5623] or online at The theatre is located in San Diego's Balboa Park at 1363 Old Globe Way.