Picasso at the Lapin Agile

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Picasso at the Lapin Agile
Written by Steve Martin
Date premiered October 13, 1993 (1993-10-13)
Place premiered Steppenwolf Theatre Company
Original language English

Picasso at the Lapin Agile is a play written by Steve Martin in 1993. It features the characters of Albert Einstein and Pablo Picasso, who meet at a bar called the Lapin Agile (Nimble Rabbit) in Montmartre, Paris. It is set on October 8, 1904, and both men are on the verge of an amazing idea (Einstein will publish his special theory of relativity in 1905 and Picasso will paint Les Demoiselles d'Avignon in 1907) when they find themselves at the Lapin Agile, where they have a lengthy debate about the value of genius and talent while interacting with a host of other characters.

Productions[edit]

This was the first full-length play written by Steve Martin. The first reading of the play took place in Beverly Hills, California at Steve Martin's home, with Tom Hanks reading the role of Pablo Picasso and Chris Sarandon reading the role of Albert Einstein. Martin then held a nine-day professional workshop of the play in Melbourne, Australia, at the Malthouse Theatre (in conjunction with Belvoir St Theatre), which ended with two public staged readings of the play. Following this, the play opened at the Steppenwolf Theatre Company in Chicago, Illinois, on October 13, 1993.[1] The show then enjoyed a successful run at the Westwood Playhouse (now known as the Geffen Playhouse) in Los Angeles, California. Finally, the show made its way to New York City. The play has also had successful runs in other American cities.

Martin made several attempts to create a film version of the play, but none came to fruition. On November 27, 2006 Martin stated on his website that "there is no movie of Picasso at the Lapin Agile in the works." [2]

Controversy[edit]

The play was pulled from La Grande High School in La Grande, Oregon in March 2009 following a parent-led petition of 137 names opposed to the staging of the play. The petitioners objected to some of the adult themes and content, in response to which Martin wrote that the students knew that the "questionable behavior sometimes evident in the play is not endorsed." In his letter to the La Grande Observer, he compared the characterization that the play is about "people drinking in bars and treating women as sex objects" to characterising Shakespeare's 'Hamlet' as being "about a castle". Martin has responded to the banning of the play at La Grande High School with an offer to underwrite a production of the play at an alternate location, stating he does not want the play to acquire "a reputation it does not deserve."[3]

Analysis[edit]

Each character in Lapin Agile performs a specific function. For example, Schmendiman, an inventor, believes he is a genius but really knows very little, while Gaston, an amicable old Frenchman with prostate problems, is hesitant to listen to or believe anything that does not revolve around sex or drinking.

There's much discussion of the shaping of the twentieth century. Picasso obviously represents art, Einstein represents science, and Schmendiman represents commercialism.

Picasso and Einstein eventually realize that their abilities are equally valuable.

Once the main characters have had their moment of insight, "The Visitor," a man from the future, crashes the party. Although the Visitor is never named, his identity can be surmised as Elvis Presley. The Visitor adds a third dimension to Picasso and Einstein's debate, representing the idea that genius is not always the product of academic or philosophical understanding, or as Gaston refers to it, "Brains".

Martin has written: "Focusing on Einstein’s Special Theory of Relativity and Picasso’s master painting, Les Demoiselles d'Avignon, the play attempts to explain, in a light-hearted way, the similarity of the creative process involved in great leaps of imagination in art and science."[4]

Cast, in order of appearance[edit]

Freddy – The owner and bartender of the Lapin Agile. He is the boyfriend of Germaine and often considered the simple minded one of the men in the play. However sometimes he says something truly stunning.
Gaston – An abrupt and straight to the point old French man. He talks plainly and really only seems to care about sex and drinking.
Germaine – The waitress at the Lapin Agile. She is Freddy's girlfriend and a very thoughtful and beautiful woman at that. She has many ideas of what the 20th century will be like and has slept with Picasso.
Albert Einstein – A twenty-five year old scientist with big aspirations. He is a genius, with a book on the way called "The Special Theory of Relativity". He often finds himself having to explain his theories and thoughts in a simpler fashion to the rest of the group, as he is wise beyond his years.
Suzanne – A beautiful nineteen year old girl who is head over heels for Picasso. Suzanne and Picasso have already slept together, and she is left hurt and angry when he doesn't remember her.
Sagot – Picasso's art dealer, who is obsessed with finding and selling great pieces of art for profit.
Pablo Picasso – A charismatic twenty-three year old painter with tons of talent. He is extremely egotistical and confident in himself. He is a womanizer who sleeps with one woman to the next with his manipulating moves.
Charles Dabernow Schmendiman – A young inventor with huge dreams and little knowledge. Although he is hardworking he is nowhere near the genius or talent of Einstein or Picasso.
The Countess – An incredibly intelligent and attractive woman with whom Einstein is infatuated. She thinks like he does, being the one person to really understand him in the play.
A Female Admirer – A young admirer Picasso assumes is a fan of his, but turns out to be an admirer of Schmendiman.
The Visitor – A polite and talented country boy time-traveler, who adds a third dimension and point of view to Einstein and Picasso's debate. He is a blue-suede-shoed musician.

Footnotes[edit]

  1. ^ History: "Picasso At The Lapin Agile" (Oct. 13, 1993 - May. 12, 1994) | Steppenwolf Theatre Company
  2. ^ Steves Message to You
  3. ^ "Steve Martin backing banned play". BBC NEWS. 15 March 2009. Retrieved 7 August 2013. 
  4. ^ Martin, Steve (March 13, 2009), "Of arts and sciences", The Observer 

External links[edit]