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Picasso at the Lapin Agile – Dramatic Criticism

From the time you enter the Falk Theatre, until the curtain rises and falls on the Stageworks productions of Picasso at the Lapin Agile, you are in for a treat.  The play is an original work by Steve Martin with a running time of 90minutes, which feels more like 30minutes. Aside from the uncomfortable seating, this production is nothing short of wonderful. The Theatre has been transformed from a long movie Theater atmosphere to a quaint surrounding by means of risers that are placed directly on the stage. The new seating divides the old Theater in half and allows for the actors and the audience to share the same space. Not only this atmosphere that makes it wonderful but also the performances, the direction, the design and the script.

Set in France in 1904, the stage is a French bar called the Lapin Agile, with the action of the plot involving the characters who come into the bar and their relationship to time as well as each other. The script is an abstract look at the chance meeting of historical
figures and the role these meetings will have on the future. Perhaps one of the most attractive aspects of the script is its ability to ask the same questions of the audience that it does from one character to another. For example, the owner of the Lapin Agile, Freddy attempts to stump Albert Einstein with a mathematical problem that the audience couldnt have enough time to equate.

This style of fast paced dialogue and action fills the entire script from the opening line, adding humor and wit which is only emphasized by the close attention to details.
In the set design, we first see the use of layering,  with a large cyclorama that has been painted onto a piece of scrim to allow for a visual effect at the end of the play. The painting depicts a beautiful scene of  sheep in a meadow in the fog, with a wall to
represent the interior of the Lapin Agile containing a painting of  sheep in a meadow in the fog. On each side of this backdrop are doors: the entrance to the bar and the other the to the bathroom. The emphasis on details can be noticed in the set with the signs that are
posted on either side of the bathroom door, which swings freely when pushed.

The door has a board on it the says OUI and when it is flung in the opposite direction it too says OUI a creative and pun intended wee wee. This is a subtlety in the stage design that
brings the humor away from the actual text and  into an unusual place, the set. Little things like these accentuate  my appreciation of the production as a whole.
The lighting is also something that was exceptionally well done. The designers used a large amount of light with soft yellow and orange tones to give an overall feeling of warmth to the setting. The day moves from morning to night with the most drastic change at nightfall where the tones switch to blues and the star light shine across the cyclorama.

It is perhaps the blocking from the director and the skills of the actors though that makes this performance so wonderful. The technique of  layering was used by both in how the actors are spaced throughout to allow for the focus to transfer effortlessly while maintaining a certain depth on stage. While some characters tend to dominate different sections of the script,  it was the layering of the overall ensemble that gave strength to this performance. Another strength was the actors ability to relate to the current audience and find humor based on that. Each actor entered with enormous amounts of energy,  making me feel as though this was opening night as opposed to closing night.

Every aspect of this production, from the blocking and the talent of  the actors to the set design and the lightning, made it evident how much hard work and dedication went into this performance. Aside from the biographies in the program it was hard to differentiate between those actors who had previous stage experience and those who did
not.  No actor seemed to demand any extra attention while on stage and each worked effortlessly to portray a powerful stage presence. This production of Picasso at the Lapin Agile was very well done and all of those who were involved should be congratulated for making the show a success.

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