It was 1904. Inside the Lapin Agile, a portrait of five sheep hung above the bar and empty wine bottles sat on tables as centerpieces. At the March 3 preview show, the stage was set for Santa Clara Players’ production of “Picasso at the Lapin Agile,” directed by Robert Casillas. The Lapin Agile is a real bar in Paris, though playwright Steve Martin fictionalized the meeting between artist Pablo Picasso and physicist Albert Einstein.
“Picasso and Einstein are going to change the 20th century and that’s where the conversation goes,” says George Doeltz, producer and president of Santa Clara Players. “You have an artist and a scientist with different opinions but at some point they converge and agree.”
Picasso (Thomas Times) didn’t come on stage until about halfway through the hour and fifteen-minute play. When Picasso and Einstein (Jonathan Roth) initially met, tension ensued. Picasso argued that his art affected the heart while Einstein asserted that his formulas stimulated the head. Both initially felt their brand of intellectualism was superior.
“Einstein wants to share his love of science with everyone so people could see how beautiful the universe is,” Roth says.
“Picasso’s muses always happen to be women but the women he’s with are starting to catch on and figure him out,” Times says.
Unfairly excluded from the society of intellectualism was a waitress named Germaine (Sandy Sodos). Germaine predicted that the 20th century would feature air travel on planes, lawn flamingoes, a smoking ban in restaurants, and small storage spaces for large amounts of information. Not only did the dismissal of Germaine’s ideas hint at the sexism among the people at the bar, it showed that brilliant minds do not always get proper recognition.
“As a woman, Germaine demands respect from others,”‘ Sodos says. “She has to work to send money home to her family.”
Entertaining moments include Picasso’s encounter with a gushing admirer (Sarah Kishler), the arrival of a flamboyant visitor channeling Elvis Presley (Armando Romero), the mad scientist ramblings of Schmendiman (Johnny Villar) and the drunken musings of Gaston (Steve Corelis).
Coupling among characters added extra layers to the story. The attentive Countess (Helena G. Clarkson) gave hope to Einstein. While Freddy (Andy Cooperfauss) was conscious of bar patrons who forgot to pay for their drinks, he was oblivious to his girlfriend Germaine’s secrets. Suzanne (Jaime Wolf) romanticized her connection to Picasso until she realized how insignificant their tryst was to him.
Sagot (Bob Siegmann) was the witty art dealer who delivered one of the most thought-provoking lines, a warning about how careless execution of ideas can void the intelligent intent behind them.
“Ideas are like children,” Sagot says. “You have to watch over them or they might go wrong.”
The Santa Clara Players is showing “Picasso at the Lapin Agile” from now to March 26. Visit http://www.scplayers.org for more information.