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Picasso at The Lapin Agile at T. Schreiber Studio

- Backstage with the Playwrights

Picasso at The Lapin Agile
By Steve Martin
(Steve Martin Bio)
Directed by Cat Parker

Set Design: George Allison
Costume Design: Karen Ann Ledger
Lighting Design: Andrea Boccanfuso
Sound Design: Christopher Rummel
Rehearsal Stage Manager: Shane Van Vliet
Production Stage Manager: Melanie Bell
Asst. Director: Brittney Venable
Set Director: Carolyn Mraz
Technical Director: Brian Smallwood
Publicity: Kate Rosin

Starring: Frank Mihelich, Jim Aylward, Maeve Yore,
Josh Marcantel, Arela Rivas, Todd Cowdery,
Richard Zekaria, Michael Black, Andrea Marie Smith,
Ivette Dumeng, and Edward Campbell, Jr.

At the
T. Schreiber Studio
(T. Schreiber Website)
151 West 26th Street, 7th Floor

Artistic Director: Terry Schreiber;
Associate Artistic Director: Peter Jensen;
Managing Director: Sally Dunn;
Producing Director: Cat Parker

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
April 12, 2007

The T. Schreiber Studio, established in 1969, is involved in training and developing actors and has an ongoing season of challenging plays that support the actors in the incipient stages of their careers. The faculty is made up of veteran actors and professionals, under the guidance of Terry Schreiber, who create unique teaching methods for each theatrical trainee. The Faculty members are Terry Schreiber, Peter Jensen, Page Clements, Sally Dunn, Julie Garfield, Diane Miner, Peter Miner, Burke Pearson, Carol Reynolds, Pam Scott, Lynn Singer, Tracy Trevett, and Robert Verlaque. (Program Notes).

In 1999, I actually stopped at the bar of The Lapin Agile in Montmartre, and the ambiance, as I recall, was similar to the 1904 ambiance created tonight at the T. Schreiber Studio. Oak tables, cloth hanging lampshades, rough framed sketches on the walls, expansive booths, a darkness that creates a private world of art and ideas, romance and politics, wine and absinthe, all combine to welcome guests inside an open door. The first guest was Einstein, who was to meet a lady at a different bar, but his theory was that she could just as easily stroll into the wrong bar, and there he would be. In 1904, Einstein was on the verge of his Special Theory of Relativity (1907-1915), and numbers and equations excited him as a new sheet music would entice a musician. Another guest was Picasso, who was on the verge of his Rose Period, and he had yet to paint the cubist “Les Demoiselles D’Avignon” (1907). Picasso and Einstein were young, lusty, and impassioned with talent. They had a timed contest of wits, one drawing an equation, another the head of a woman

Also at the bar are Gaston, an elderly regular, who frequently disappears behind the restroom door, Freddy, the bartender, Germaine, his co-worker and companion, Suzanne, an admirer and occasional lover of Picasso, Sagot, the art dealer, Countess and Mimi, the Admirer, Schmendiman, an eccentric with bad ideas, and a sexy Visitor from Memphis, who sings and plays guitar. There are allusions to present (1904) and future, with 1980’s music (the play was written in 1993), as well as a fragmented piano-cello score from Arvo Pärt’s music, heard as a ballet score (After the Rain). The dialogue is poignant and preposterous, inspiring and hilarious. Frank Mihelich (Freddy) revealed in the post-performance discussion that he’s actually a caterer, and it’s no surprise, because he drew me in, serving as a quasi-narrator of the play. The audience is almost onstage, and staff sits in the café booths, so the psychological distance between fantasy and reality is erased. I felt like a guest in Freddy’s/Frank’s bar.

Richard Zekaria (Picasso) had the stance, the build, the personality, and the affect of Picasso. He even drew a tiny sketch that was a likeness of a Picasso woman. His seduction of Suzanne (Arela Rivas), in fishnets and décolletage, was in real time. Ms. Rivas, as well, exuded chemistry and wiliness, whether in the center or sidelines of the action. Gaston (Jim Aylward) was an older man craving passion, but settling for proximity to Suzanne, while Sagot (Todd Cowdery) seemed all business, with an eye for art (having purchased an early Matisse, Picasso’s competition). Einstein (Josh Mercantel) was bubbling with enthusiasm and burning with passion, an Einstein we don’t hear much about. Germaine (Maeve Yore) was wise, womanly, and prescient, while Mimi, the Admirer (Ivette Dumeng) had one of the funniest scenes in the play.

Countess (Andrea Marie Smith) enhanced the ensemble as another Parisian seductress, and Schmendiman (Michael Black) had choreographed dance/aerobics to propel his banter. His caricature and nonsensical inventions evoked a Steve Martin stand-up routine. Visitor (Edward Campbell) was right on as Elvis, including wavy black hair, slouched hips, deep voice, and liquid eyes. Cat Parker directed this precious play in such a way to allow each actor to fill the respective role with intuition and invention. It was obvious that each character was natural and comfortable; no visual or verbal gesture seemed forced. George Alison’s set was truly a Montmartre bistro, and Karen Ann Ledger’s costumes were authentic with edge. Andrea Boccanfuso and Christopher Rummel teamed for light and sound in a star-struck scene, quasi-planetarium.

Picasso at The Lapin Agile is a must-see production for Steve Martin’s play and T. Schreiber Studio’s entertaining interpretation. Call 212.741.0209 for reservations.

Picasso at the Lapin Agile
Photo courtesy of Rod Goodman

Picasso at the Lapin Agile
Photo courtesy of Rod Goodman

Picasso at the Lapin Agile
Photo courtesy of Rod Goodman

Picasso at the Lapin Agile
Photo courtesy of Rod Goodman

Picasso at the Lapin Agile
Photo courtesy of Rod Goodman

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For more information, contact Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower at