At a bar in Paris in 1904, a year before Albert Einstein published his Special Theory of Relativity and three years before Picasso painted Les Demoiselles D’Avignon, the two great men cross paths, engaging in discussion about the nature of art, science and women. With the help of a great supporting cast of necessary characters, Picasso (Richard Zekaria) and Einstein (Josh Marcantel) touch upon the heavy unanswerables of heart, mind and inspiration. They also make a whole lot of corny, cringe-worthy jokes. After all, Picasso at the Lapin Agile was born of the mind of comic writer/actor Steve Martin, and every character and every scene is infused with his very funny, if decidedly cheeseball, brand of humor.
In fact, it would be easy to imagine the playwright in any of the male roles, and particularly in my favorite — due to his over-the-top ridiculousness — Schmendiman. As the self-proclaimed third point of the Picasso/Einstein triangle, Charles Dabernow Schmendiman is the inventor of Schmendimite, a “very inflexible building material” made of “equal parts asbestos, kitten paws, and radium.” This still makes me laugh. It’s just silly. And Michael Black is really excellent at playing this character who thinks he knows everything, but is, in fact, totally useless. There are a number of really goofy roles in Picasso — for one, the real third great man/genius, who arrives to join in the fun via time travel. Without ruining the surprise, it is worth mentioning that Edward Campbell, Central Park Zoo children’s entertainer, fills the part.
All in all, this is a fun play that brings up some interesting issues. Steve Martin definitely thinks the big thoughts — he just gift-wraps them a little differently.