Picasso at the Lapin Agile: A totally biased review

The following article is an outright, straight-up, no-holds-barred, outrageously biased review of the greatest production ever done of the Steve Martin comedy, by the most awesome actors ever to walk the grounds of Arizona Western College. Seriously.


So there I was, sitting backstage right, ready to make my first entrance in the final show of AWC Theatre’s production of Picasso at the Lapin Agile, by Steve Martin. It had been a great run with responsive audiences who had enjoyed each performance, and we had received tons of positive feedback each night.

As is the norm when we put on a play that we’ve rehearsed and worked hard on for six weeks, we were all a bit sorry that this was the last show. Aside from that slight remorse, I felt great about my performances thus far and knew that I was about to step through that door and rock it one last time. I was giddy with the anticipation of the joy of performance as well as with the whisper of stage fright that I still get right before going onstage, which I thrive on.

Forty-five seconds until my cue, I took a deep breath, closed my eyes and leaned forward on my cane, and when I opened my eyes again I was no longer Scott Gamble. I was now Gaston, a 62-year-old Frenchman and the most steadfast customer of the Lapin Agile, a Parisian tavern popular with artists, writers and sculptors. The year was 1904 and, as I adjusted my beret, I could smell the crumbs on my vest from the baguette that I had eaten for breakfast and washed down with a bottle of red wine. It was show time!


Older than the hills

It was right about then, with 30 seconds to go before my cue, that I remembered what I had forgotten. Have you ever had that feeling? Everything feels great, you are totally confident in the knowledge that you are about to absolutely kill it and then reality hits you in the head like a brick. I had completely forgotten to put gray coloring in my hair and beard. Fortunately for me, during this show we had someone to do our makeup for us (by the way, great work, Maddy) but hair was my own responsibility and I had completely dropped the ball.

Well, nothing I could do about it now. The show must go on, so I would just have to be that much more convincing in my portrayal of a broken down, worn out old man. All right, it’s not really that far from reality for me, I suppose. I went on as usual, slightly worried that someone in the back would stand up and yell, “Hey that guy doesn’t look old enough to be in his sixties! What do you take us for, suckers?”

I found myself disappointed that not only did that not happen, but that my fellow cast members didn’t notice my mishap at all! I thought, “Wow, trying to understand philosophy class is taking more of a toll on me than I thought!”

I soon got over my disappointment and doubled down on my reliance on the cane to appear older. I focused on the soreness that was still lingering in my recently broken foot as well as my aching back, and soon even I was convinced that I had overshot the mark and was now in my eighties.


Definitely not rocket science

It was a great show with everyone bringing solid performances throughout. The bartender, Freddy, as played by Kaelon Gerard, was a very funny role already but was like a nutty sitcom character in Kaelon’s hands.

Next through the door was Salome Siruno as Albert Einstein, sporting his iconic wild mane. Salome doesn’t usually care for doing accents, but of course this role demanded it. As is his custom, he worked hard on sounding like history’s most famous physicist and really delivered. I must say that he did a good job of sounding German but still being understandable.

As for me, I have a tendency to go all-out with accents, and if the audience has a hard time understanding me, I feel I’ve effectively become the character. Granted, overkill is one of my major personality flaws, but I rocked it. I hope. (The real problem is that the last time I did a French character, a friend of mine who is a French professor and saw the play told me that I nailed the pronunciations and accent. Big mistake. Now I can’t rein myself in.)

Einstein was informed by Freddy that he had come in too early. This was disputed but Freddy jumped offstage into the audience, snatched away someone's program, barrel-rolled back onstage and pointed out in the program that indeed Einstein was to supposed to be third according to the “cast in order of appearance” directive. Einstein left in a huff through the restroom door and suddenly Freddy’s girlfriend, Germaine (played by Bettyjo Williams) blew in, coming in late because she had been somewhere she shouldn’t have. Freddy was suspicious but sexy Germaine soon smoothed things out with him.


A portrait of the artist

Germaine soon started chatting with Gaston (me, in case you forgot) about the girls he had been observing, and he (I) quickly revealed himself to be a dirty old man. As it turned out, this revelation came just before the entrance of Suzanne (played by Tyler Prosser), a beautiful young lady hoping to run into Pablo Picasso with whom she had already become acquainted (twice) and of whom she was particularly enamored. After being eyed suspiciously by Germaine, who seemed to have her own affinity for Picasso, and then mildy violated by Gaston, who kissed her hand all the way up to the shoulder, she settled in and regaled the bar’s patrons with a review of her encounters with the artist.

Then through the door came the art dealer Sagot, played with gusto by Christopher Pereda. Sagot is a man who is certain that he alone has it all figured out, and he proceeded to lend his opinion whether it was asked for or not. He touted his most recent art acquisitions and hilariously lamented the impossibility of selling paintings of sheep or male nudes. Gaston offered his own opinion about the high proportion of nuts in the bar that night just in time for Picasso to walk in and become the latest nut added to the party mix.

My little buddy Alfredo Figueroa, who portrayed Pablo Picasso, is normally not a cocky guy. He is a polite, mild-mannered young man who works hard for a living and even harder on the roles he plays. Becoming an egotistical, arrogant young artist promised to be very difficult for him despite director Ann Wilkinson's encouragement – but then Ann bought him “The Boots.” Suddenly, with his feet encased in those elegant vessels, his demeanor transformed and he was now the most influential artist of the 20th Century – a pompous, womanizing young Spaniard whose ego is exceeded in size only by his talent.

After Alfie had taken his turn on the catwalk and talked shop with Sagot for a minute, he met Einstein and they in turn compared notes on the art of science as well as the science of art. When that became tiresome (Picasso seemed to have a problem staying focused for very long) he finally noticed Suzanne, who had been all but blowing a police whistle and throwing empty bottles to get his attention. In a flash, he was all over her like a cheap suit only to immediately stick his foot in his mouth by revealing that he didn’t remember her. Awkward...

While she iced over, Picasso tried to bolster his bruised ego by picking an argument with Einstein. This showdown only furthered his misery since it ended with Suzanne practically in the arms of the physicist. However, Pablo was able to rally his cause and patch things up by talking a blue streak, and Suzanne left with the promise that the artist would end his evening at her place.


Man of the century

The scientist and the artist continued to bicker about who would change the 20th Century the most until I (Gaston) asked the profound question, “Who’s the third?” As Gaston explained it, there has to be a third genius to change the 20th Century. “There’s always a tryptic,” he said. Things always come in threes – a third point to the triangle, as it were.

Unfortunately for us, a guy convinced that indeed, he was that third point, came bursting through the door – “Charles Dabernow Schmendeman,” he said when asked his name, played by Kevin Enquist III and, in my not-so-humble opinion, better than anyone else could possibly play him. Schmendeman believes he will change the century with his invention of “an incredibly brittle and inflexible building material called Schmendemite.” Due to building code considerations, he told us, it could only be sold in San Francisco, Los Angeles and the Island of Krakatoa east of Java. Still, he was undaunted, while the rest of us couldn’t wait for him to leave.

Einstein was soon met by his lady friend the Countess, played by Arantxa Acosta, and they left the Lapin Agile to make the rounds of Paris, but not before bonding with Picasso. The two had found more things in common than not and parted with excessive cheek kissing and the declaration that each was to the other as a brother.

Once he had left and Gaston had gone to the loo for the seventeenth time, a new visitor came in – another lovely young lady admirer played by Kellybeth Bautista. Shyly at first, she asked, “I heard that he comes here. Is it true?” She was directed to Picasso and was soon in his lap, feathering him with kisses. Suddenly, in the thick of it she stopped cold: “Wait a minute, you’re not Schmendeman!” She got up, thanked him with a slap and stormed out, indignant.

Things settled down for a minute and then started to get really weird as the theme of 2001: A Space Odyssey emanated from the restroom, shaking the theater. Suddenly, a familiar figure burst through the curtain wearing blue suede shoes. Played by Eduardo Colin, he gyrated his way around the stage, settled in and referred to himself as “The Visitor.” We eyed him suspiciously until the return of Einstein and the Countess. Sagot, who had left to get his camera, returned with it to take a “historic photo.” Hearing that phrase caused Schmendeman to rematerialize and try to crowd everyone else out of it.

Soon it became evident that The Visitor was there to visit Picasso and Einstein specifically, having done a bit of time travelling for that purpose, he said. After discussing the nature of genius and changing the world, The Visitor revealed to Picasso the painting that he would soon produce would turn the art world upside down.

We wrapped it all up with a poetic toast to the 20th Century, which Schmendeman quickly botched.


5 stars out of 4

In my 100 percent biased opinion, this was one of the funniest plays I have ever watched (from onstage) and absolutely deserves 5 stars out of 4! Three thumbs up! Rotten Tomatoes should give it their coveted (and extremely rare) 200 percent rating! A triumph! The acting was superb! Especially Gaston!

If you saw one of the performances, you already know all that! If you didn’t catch one, that’s a shame, but be sure to come to the next AWC Theatre production and bear witness to the antics of our wonderful array of talented actors before they get so famous that you can’t afford to see them in person.

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