Volume 91, Issue 81

Wednesday, March 4, 1998



Lapin up the laughs

©Elisabeth Feryn
I CAUGHT A FISH THIS BIG! Albert Einstein (David Storch) and Pablo Picasso (Alex Ferguson) square off as Freddy (Daryl Shuttleworth) and Germaine (Wendy Noel) look on.

By Jamie Lynn

Gazette Staff

For many of London's theatre goers, the main drawing attraction of the Grand Theatre's latest production is its famous playwright.

While Picasso at the Lapin Agile is certainly not one of theatre's best recognized plays, its author, funnyman Steve Martin, is certainly a household name for most North Americans. While Martin has clearly started to let things slip in his dominant day job – simply try to sit through such tired films as Sgt. Bilko and Father of the Bride 2 – he was once one of the most inventive and wildly erratic stand-up comedians ever to hit the stage.

So while his films may have opted for mediocrity, clearly Martin's gift for original writing has remained vibrant. Picasso at the Lapin Agile is a wildly ridiculous, yet remarkably profound script that is as intelligently engaging as it is hysterically outrageous. Martin has managed to strike this perfect balance with Picasso at the Lapin Agile and undoubtedly this was no easy task. Martin is able to deliver a story that questions humanity – but is wrapped in a wonderfully jovial package.

The entire story takes place during one extraordinary evening in 1904 at a dingy, Paris watering hole called the Lapin Agile. It is here, where merely by fate, the great Pablo Picasso encounters the world renowned physicist Albert Einstein. This was one year before Einstein published his "Special Theory of Relativity" and three years before Picasso painted "Les Demoiselles d'Avignon." Clearly this is a well-placed historical framework for some interesting interaction between the two characters.

So, at the start of this new and exciting century, the two men indulge in an exchange of knowledge in issues ranging from the universe's secrets to how to meet women. In their clearly defined, yet rather obvious roles, the two men attempt to demonstrate their relevancy in an age old debater's battle. This clash is one in which science tackles art, but both eventually realize how similar and relevant each other's perceptions actually are.

While Martin's script is wonderfully crafty, much credit must also be given to the superb cast whom breathe life into all of this slapstick philosophizing. David Storch, who tackles Albert Einstein, is recognizable as the famous scientist but utterly original in his character's presentation. Storch's Einstein is a wildly amusing character who is able to find the humour and logic in notions which fly far above the heads of both the bar patrons and the audience.

Still, the performance's scene stealer is a side-splitting character offered up by Allan Zinyk and appropriately named Charles Dabernow Schendiman. Trying to explain this character is certainly a daunting task but his warped slapstick spectacle should certainly not be missed.

While Steve Martin did demonstrate his talent for writing this form of crafty madness before in one of his better film's called L.A. Story, Picasso at the Lapin Agile proves that he has perfected it. It seems that everyone's favourite "wild and crazy guy" with the arrow through his head, surprisingly has one of the sharpest and edgiest pens in the business. Picasso at the Lapin Agile runs at the Grand Theatre until March 7.

To Contact The Arts and Entertainment Department: gazent@julian.uwo.ca

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