The Picasso at the Lapin Agile Follow-Up

Robbie Tann (as Einstein), Grayson DeJesus (at bar, as Picasso), Dina Shihabi (Suzanne) and David Margulies (Gaston) in the Long Wharf Theatre production of Steve Martin’s Picasso at the Lapin Agile. Photo by T. Charles Erickson.

Woke up this morning to find that my Hartford Courant review of Picasso at the Lapin Agile (at the Long Wharf) had been retweeted by Steve Martin himself. Happy he dug it.

To expand on that review: it’s a fine production, making excellent use of regional theater resources.

Gordon Edelstein was distinguishing himself with smart comedies at Long Wharf long before he became the Artistic Director of the place. When he did David Ives’ All in the Timing, he augmented it with other Ives one-acts and provided ingenious linking devices. When he did Joe Keenan’s musical The Times, he brought consistent style and pacing to an intelligent modern romance script that needed reining in. When he did The Front Page (probably my favorite of all the Edelstein shows I’ve seen) he nailed the newsroom ensemble feel and added several degrees of humor—and tension—to that yellow-inkstained classic.

Edelstein’s direction of Picasso at the Lapin Agile is notably different from how he did Steve Martin’s adaptation of The Underpants last season. That’s good, ‘cause they’re different plays. But The Underpants was all bright and farce-paced, while Picasso at the Lapin Agile is moody and artsy. The Underpants was presented on multiple levels—staircases, landings, tables—all the better to see up its heroine’s skirts. Picasso at the Lapin Agile is one long flat wooden surface, a dance hall of incipient 20th century ideas. The Underpants blurts out all sorts of political slogans and social commentary, but these pithy pronouncements are often the same as just more jokes. Picasso at the Lapin Agile has opinions on art and life that you want to have time to ponder and savor, and Edelstein allows for that. But he also makes sure that the punters get the wacky Steve Martin comedy they’re expecting. Tricky balancing act, gracefully and comically accomplished.

Ron Guttman, Robbie Tann, Penny Balfour and Tom Riis Farrell (as Germaine and Freddy, in back at bar), Grayson DeJesus, David Margulies and Dina Shihabi in Picasso at the Lapin Agile, through Dec. 21 at the Long Wharf Theatre. Photo by T. Charles Erickson.