Spot On Review

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Two geniuses walk into a bar….

A setup for a joke? Indeed, it’s playwright, comedian, actor and author Steve Martin’s entrée into a zany night of mind-bending laughs and fun at a Parisian bistro, known the Lapin Agile (Nimble Rabbit). The real Lapin Agile happens to be a cabaret in the Parisian district of Montmartre. A gathering place for artists and writers (and also their groupies) at the turn of the 20th century, the setting is perfectly suited for Martin’s madcap imaginings. In this case, the Lapin Agile is far more than a mere bohemian watering hole. It’s an interdimensional portal, where artists, scientists and even Memphis crooners in blue suede shoes can congregate and commiserate from across time and space.

As the play opens, 25-year old Einstein (Corey Edward) claims to be a brilliant scientist who has a rendezvous with a young woman at the Bar Rouge. It doesn’t matter that he’s waiting at the Lapin Agile, because as a theorist he believes she’s just as likely to show up there as any other bar. While clever jokes and puns about randomness and probability fly, Suzanne (Anna Pidlypchak) arrives, looking for a young painter named Picasso. She heard that he frequents the Lapin Agile. “He told me about this place, that he might see me here one day, and that was two weeks ago.”

Enter twenty-three year old Picasso (Mark Maher), colossal ego in tow. He promptly flirts with Suzanne, who he doesn’t recognize as his lover from the previous night. She accuses him of being “a womanizing, bastard fraud!” and he soothes her anger with, “I meant everything I said that night. I just forgot who I said it to.” This is the kind of Martin-esque absurdity that kept the audience howling with laughter throughout the 1½ hour play.

The acting and staging were terrific, especially the timing and delivery of jokes, puns, pratfalls and general silliness.  It was like an extended Saturday Night Live sketch one would expect from Martin, but with this episode expertly realized by Director Chad Sweet. I was impressed with Sweet’s choices for the characters. Actor Edward nailed the brainy, nerdy Einstein who theorizes about stars, the universe and time. Maher was excellent as Picasso, the sex-obsessed narcissist whose ego fills an entire stage. I certainly can’t forget to mention bartender-cum-philosopher Freddy (Christopher Wilson) and his wife Germaine (Libby Bakke), whose rapid-fire repartee about neo-romanticism versus post-romanticism was delightful. I wondered about Sweet’s choices for the actors and he told me that, “Steve Martin is in every character. I tried to keep that in mind when casting for the parts.” Well done, Mr. Sweet.

Sweet also designed the set and lighting. I have been impressed with his other designs, and this one has his trademark artistry and attention to detail. The faux-finished bar gave the authentic appearance of well-aged wood. According to Sweet, “I was going for a dark-wood, mahogany-type finish.” He simply captured the ambiance of a turn of the century bistro, complete with cut-out rabbits in the backsplash and lighting sconces at either end.

“Picasso at the Lapin Agile” premiered Sept. 11, and was a perfect example of why Reno Little Theater is the longest-running community theater in Nevada. Underneath all of the zaniness, Martin has a thing or two to say about what was successful in the 20th century and what wasn’t. No, I’m not going to tell you what that is; you’re going to have to see this wonderful production to find out – and you should. It’s a funny, risqué, whacky, thought-provoking production that will keep you discussing the meaning of life, wherever you happen to exist in time and space. See it soon. It’s only playing through Oct. 4, and with a production this entertaining, tickets are sure to go fast. I give it two geniuses up.

What: “Picasso at the Lapin Agile”

Where: Reno Little Theatre, 147 E. Pueblo St, Reno NV

When: Through Oct. 4

                                 

By Galen Watson

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