Picasso at the Lapin Agile

Lisa Dusseault (lisadu@exchange.microsoft.com)
Fri, 24 Apr 1998 10:02:11 -0700

I've seen recommendations here for books, music and movies so far. How
about plays? Not exactly mass media, and you can't watch it online, but
some of you might find it fun.


I saw Picasso at the Lapin Agile last night. It's playing for a few more
nights at the Moore Theater in downtown Seattle. It's written by Steve
Martin (http://qlink.queensu.ca/~4kgd/steve/), who is a heck of a random
guy. Everybody seen L.A. Story? Last week I forced some of my friends
who'd lived in LA to sit down and watch it, and they did like it. It
reminded me how surreal & random Steve Martin's writing is, which had me
totally prepped when another friend suggested an outing to this play.

The premise is that a 25-year-old Einstein wanders into a Paris bar in 1904,
the Lapin Agile, to find that Picasso is expected to come in later that
evening. (This is before "The special theory of relativity" and cubism.)
When the 23-year-old Picasso does arrive, the two cocky young geniuses spar
a bit (over women!) before grudgingly accepting each other and realizing how
much they have in common.

There's a great set of predictions about the 20th century: one character
spouts off a string of bizarre predictions (which have all come true) and
another character lists some very reasonable predictions (all false). Near
the end of the movie is an unexpected visitor, who completes the triptych of
genius. The whole play is a strange mix of thoughtfulness and silliness.
"It's really about how exciting it is when you're on the verge of something"
-- Steve Martin.

There were some memorable lines, which will surely make their way into the
already idiosyncratic speech of my local group of friends. At one point the
group of characters at the Lapin Agile pose for a new-fangled photograph.
The photographer suggests that everybody say "Matisse" at the same time to
get their mouths in that smiling position, but Picasso is offended at this
reference to his rival so suggests that everybody say "El Greco". "But that
would make our mouths round and we'd look like fishes!" Then the wierd
moment where all the characters musingly say "El Greco..." with their
mouths all round for a few seconds... oh well, maybe you had to be there,
eh? Just say it a few times and maybe it will work for you too. It had my
friends laughing and staggering around on the sidewalk afterwards as we all
exaggeratedly said "El Grecoooo..." a few times.

Another great line (said by Einstein) is "An F-shaped pie -- just isn't
funny!!!" . And there's a great monologue by an art dealer on why paintings
of Jesus don't sell well. Where are you going to hang it? In your bedroom?
There is no fourth wall to this play -- the bartender runs off stage to get
a program at one point to find out which character is supposed to come
onstage next.

Picasso: "There's millions of stars up there!!"
Einstein: "You're way low."

I can rarely summarize my opinion of a play, movie or book right after I see
or read it, because something that seems wonderful to me at first sometimes
fades from my memory later, and I realize it was shallow and/or gimmicky. I
can say that this was a very funny play to watch, well worth the ticket
price, but not incredibly deep or great. It has great moments, but it is
awkward in places and the ending doesn't quite live up to the great moments.

I tried to get a fork-recommendations link to "Cruel Shoes", a collection of
short stories written by Steve Martin, that are more random than his movies
and his plays put together, but it seems to be out of print. Sad, because
Cruel Shoes is a truly excellent book, especially the title story
(http://qlink.queensu.ca/~4kgd/steve/writings/cruel_shoes.htm). At least I
know where I can always find a copy of it -- a good friend owns it. It
seems you can get CD or tape audio versions from Amazon, but I was unable to
determine if the audio version is read by Steve Martin himself. If so, I
might just have to get it. I did find text to his plays, including "Picasso
at the Lapin Agile":


Anyway, now I guess I'm on a Steve Martin kick. I'll have to see "The
Spanish Prisoner"
when it comes out.

Lisa Dusseault