GREEN BAY, Wis. (WFRV) – How to bottle genius. Put it in a play.
Contained in “Picasso at the Lapin Agile” are Albert Einstein and Pablo Picasso together, placed in a Paris nightspot by Steve Martin with his gift of whimsy.
Einstein considers a Picasso drawing. He asks opinions about the image of a young woman. Each differs from the next. Opinions can be as many as there are people in the world, Einstein says, then notes: The drawing stays the same.
Such deep-think moments – along with zany, Steve Martin-infused fun – burst through the brilliant creation now in the hands of University of Wisconsin-Green Bay Theatre and Dance. Four more performances continue to April 30 in University Theatre of Theatre Hall on campus.
Director Alan Kopischke has his nimble cast primed for brainy, kidding, clever, earthy, comical, flashy, imaginative action.
The play adds to the huge scope of Steve Martin, best known as funny guy and movie actor.
The play is about genius, some of which is Steve Martin’s as he toys with the intellect of the topic with his trademark humor never far away.
Albert Einstein and Pablo Picasso are in the same place at the same time in 1904, shortly before their brilliance presents itself to the world. A third world-shaker arrives late in the play to help launch marvelous thoughts about the 20th century.
The play and performances sweep the audience into a mystical charm of a wonderful what-if.
Steve Martin projects an uplifting view on art, science, music and, in a funny way, stardom.
He also is full of surprises as a kind of philosopher. He drops in such brain-nuggets as this from one of his characters: “A mirror is like the mind. If you don’t use it, you lose the power to reflect.”
The players are full of color. Ty Witthuhn imbues the league-of-his-own majesty of physicist Albert Einstein. Mickey Wirtz radiates the womanizing/rogue inclination of Pablo Picasso, always on the cusp of new in art.
Enlivening the atmospheric nightspot with art all around are the dim/smart bartender (Cory J. O’Donnell), love-minded women (Alexandra Smith and Aubrey Stein), a know-it-all barfly with a weak bladder (Mason Amidon), an art dealer with an eye for talent and making money (Audrey Soberg), a clownish wannabe creator of the next best thing (Jenny Witt), a lofty countess (Autumn Johnson) and a visitor from the future with blue suede shoes (Blake Larson).
The rich material generates an inspired atmosphere in the direction, performances and stagecraft.
Special things happen toward the end of then extended one-act play. A painting behind the bar and the entire front portion of the theater become canvases for things new. To use a metaphor, some of the genius escapes the bottle.
Running time: 85 minutes (no intermission)
Remaining performances: 7:30 p.m. April 23, 28-30
Info: uwgb.edu/theatre or ticketstaronline.com
Creative: Playwright – Steve Martin; director – Alan Kopischke; assistant director – Aisa Micaiah Rogers, scenic designer – Alex Polzin; costume designer – Kaoime E. Malloy; lighting and sound designer and technical director – Dinesh Yadav; assistant sound designer – Emily Milski; hair/make-up designer – Kaoime E. Malloy; properties designer – Alex Polzin; assistant technical director – David Cook; stage manager – Rebekah Witte; intimacy director – Kayla Menz; intimacy associate – Gaby Labotka
Cast (in order of appearance):
+ Freddy, owner and bartender of the Lapin Agile – Cory J. O’Donnell
+ Gaston, an abrupt, plain-talking Frenchman – Mason Amidon
+ Germaine, a waitress at the Lapin Agile – Alexandra Smith
+ Albert Einstein – Ty Witthuhn
+ Suzanne, an admirer of Picasso – Aubrey Stein
+ Sagot, Picasso’s art dealer – Audrey Soberg
+ Pablo Picasso – Mickey Wirtz
+ Charles Dabernow Schmendiman, a young inventor – Jenny Witt
+ Countess and Admirer – Autumn Johnson
+ Time-traveling country boy – Blake Larson
THE VENUE: Of 1970s vintage, the 450-seat University Theatre is a complex facility inside Theatre Hall at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay. The theater features a proscenium (flat front) stage that’s 50 feet across and 23 feet high. The seats are a calm shade of red fabric, black plastic backs and light brown arms. The concrete walls gray and slightly angled. The ceiling is a semi-dark green/blue for the coverings ventilating/electrical equipment. Concrete dominates the room – the floor, the walls, the stairs. Aisle carpeting is a flecked gray. The seating area in front of the stage is adjustable to accommodate an orchestra pit when needed. The theater includes two seating areas – a lower one 20 or so feet deep on a slight incline that reaches a poured concrete wall and the upper one above that “moat” that rises sharply and creates an amphitheater effect. The theater may be entered from the lower or upper level.