Steve Martin’s ‘Picasso at the Lapine Agile’ Continues at The Salem Players by Daniel Douek

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Pablo Picasso and Albert Einstein walk into a bar…. No, it is not a joke, it’s a play that could only spring from the mind of comedian Steve Martin. Set in a Paris cafe in 1904 “The Lapin Agile,” just before each man introduced the work that would make him famous, Martin places the two geniuses center stage for a merry romp and sometimes ridiculous look at the artistic, the scientific and the romantic.

Performance Dates :
October 24 and 25 at 8 PM/ October 26, at 2 PM
Director: Daniel Douek , AD: Tim Van Sant.
Stage Manager: Crystal Sewell

TICKETS: Adults $12, Students & Seniors $10
905 Frederick Road, Catonsville, MD 21228-4517
410 747-0720
http:// www.salem-catonsville.org/ Site/salem-players.htm
Tickets “On line” under “Upcoming Events”

The cast of 'Steve Martin's' Picasso at the Lapin Agile. '
The cast of ‘Steve Martin’s’ Picasso at the Lapin Agile. ‘

Cast:
Freddy: Chris Carothers
Gaston: Scott Graham
Germaine: Ashley Gerhardt
Albert Einstein : Harris Allgeier
Suzanne : Gemma Davimes
Sagot : John D’Amato
Pablo Picasso : Felix Hernandez
Schmendiman: Bennett Remsberg
The Countess: Hannah Kempton
Female Admirer: Crystal Sewell
The Visitor : Orbie Shively

The play is in one act, about 90 minutes.

Our set was designed using old French 1900 cafes as reference and as similar to the real Lapin Agile in Paris. Lapin Agile is a famous Montmartre cabaret, at 22 Rue des Saules, 18th arrondissement of Paris, France.

The cabaret was more than twenty years old when, in 1875, the artist Andre Gill painted the sign that was to suggest its permanent name. It was a picture of a rabbit jumping out of a saucepan, and residents began calling their neighborhood night-club “Le Lapin à Gill,” meaning “Gill’s rabbit.”

Over time, the name had evolved into “Cabaret Au Lapin Agile,” or the Nimble Rabbit Cabaret. At the turn of the twentieth century, the Lapin Agile was a favorite spot for struggling artists and writers, including Picasso, Modigliani, Apollinaire, Matisse and Utrillo.

We play old French Café music as preshow, the play is then introduced by “Freddy” who plays the owner of the Lapin Agile, clarifying that in English it means Nimble Rabbitt, but let’s face it, everything sounds better in French.

We use sound effects extensively, for example to represent “1904 street sounds” (the front doors opens to the street) and flushing toilets (Gaston our old guy has prostate problems and uses the toilet a lot).

We also use special effects for the magic second part of the play.

About our cast: I was lucky to have a wonderful cast. Each one of them look their part and have the right age! Not easy to find in community theater.

Einstein (Harris Allgeier) Elvis (Orbie Shively), and Picasso (Felix Hernandez). Photo by  Shealyn Jae.
Einstein (Harris Allgeier) Elvis (Orbie Shively), and Picasso (Felix Hernandez). Photo by Shealyn Jae.

Our cast of 11 is a good mix of theater veterans like Scott Graham (Gaston), Chris Carothers (Freddy the barman) , Ashley Gerhardt (Germaine), John D’Amato (Sagot) and Orbie Shively (Visitor) with young actors like Harris Allgeier (just graduated from Washington College in Acting) and Felix Hernandez, our Picasso. We have a good story about Picasso, he come to audition and I immediately thought “he looks exactly like Picasso when he was 24”. He did a good cold reading for the part, passionate, agile , tempestuous. When I read his audition form I realized he had ZERO experience in acting….you have to see his Picasso! He really portraits the arrogant, passionate smart womanizer he was back in 1904 adding this little insecurity at the same time.

Here an extract of the plot from Wikipedia:

Each character in Lapin Agile performs a specific function. For example, Schmendiman, an inventor, believes he is a genius but really knows very little, while Gaston, an amicable old Frenchman with prostate problems, is hesitant to listen to or believe anything that does not revolve around sex or drinking.

There’s much discussion of the shaping of the twentieth century. Picasso obviously represents art, Einstein represents science, and Schmendiman represents commercialism.

Picasso and Einstein eventually realize that their abilities are equally valuable.

Once the main characters have had their moment of insight, “The Visitor,” a man from the future, crashes the party. Although the Visitor is never named, his identity can be surmised as Elvis Presley. The Visitor adds a third dimension to Picasso and Einstein’s debate, representing the idea that genius is not always the product of academic or philosophical understanding, or as Gaston refers to it, “Brains.”

Martin has written: “Focusing on Einstein’s Special Theory of Relativity and Picasso’s master painting, Les Demoiselles d’Avignon, the play attempts to explain, in a light-hearted way, the similarity of the creative process involved in great leaps of imagination in art and science.”[4]

Picasso at the Lapine Agile plays through October 26, 2014 at The Salem Players performing at the Salem Evangelical Lutheran Church – 905 Frederick Road, in Catonsville, MD. For tickets call (410) 747-0720, or purchase them online.