Monday, December 8, 2014


In the twentieth century, luminaries in the world of art could easily conjure up Pablo Picasso and in the sphere of science one could quickly mark Albert Einstein at the top of his field.  Comedian and playwright Steve Martin, who penned an adaptation of "The Underpants" to hilarious response last season is bringing his wisdom and wit back to the stage of Long Wharf Theatre in New Haven until Sunday, December 21.  This time around he has abandoned the pursuit of frilly undergarments and focused his attention on much more heady topics.

In "Picasso at the Lapin Agile," Martin has moved the action from Germany to France, from a parade for the king to a bar in Paris (although you might see a King of a different crown), from a married lady's lament to a battle of the minds.  What might happen, Martin muses, if the artist Pablo Picasso walked into a bar and bumped into Albert Einstein?  The two legends are both callow youth, not yet famous, but with the seeds of brilliance starting to germinate.

Picasso, a confident and self-assured man of many passions portrayed with hot and cool colors by Grayson DeJesus, encounters a calculatingly studious genius by the name of Albert Einstein.  Einstein, a mathematical mastermind in the hands of Robby Tann, has arrived at the Lapin Agile to meet a lady friend.  For a man known for his precision and preciseness, he is cavalierly whimsical about this amorous assignation. As he awaits his countess (Dina Shihabi), his path crosses with the arrogant artist.  It is 1904 and the pair are both on the verge of greatness.

As they spar with words and with pencils, trying to prove superiority, they encounter an art dealer Sagot (Ronald Guttman), an unusual construction tycoon Schmendiman (Jonathan Spivey), an admirer of women despite his prostate problem Gaston (David Margulies) and a stranger with most colorful shoes (Jake Silbermann).  The bar's proprietor Freddy (Tom Rhs Farrell) and his lady friend/waitress Germaine (Penny Balfour) preside over the fireworks, making sure the sparks don't ignite to a conflagration.

With sparkling wit and clever conversation, the patrons who people the scene create a lively give and take, under the artistic direction of Gordon Edelstein.  Michael Yeargan has created a welcoming saloon to house the activities.  For tickets ($25-75), call Long Wharf Theatre, 222 Sargent Drive, New Haven at 203-787-4282 or online at Performances are Tuesday at 7 p.m., Wednesday at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m., Thursday at 8 p.m., Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 3 p.m. and8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m.

Take a seat at a little table in the corner, sip a glass of merlot, eavesdrop on the famous and yet-to-be famous patrons and learn about the bonne life of gay Paree.

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