Monday, April 16, 2012

Rubber Chicken Theater Presents Steve Martin's Picasso at the Lapin Agile

I remember going through a rough patch many years ago, my mood dragging me down a bit. I called a friend to see if he'd like to catch a movie. Dirty Rotten Scandals was in town, Steve Martin's latest send-up to the silver screen. Whatever was getting me down that day has been long forgotten because the only thing I remember is how much my cheeks hurt from laughing so hard.

That's the effect Martin has on an audience, one of the funniest writers of our generation. I say writers because his fame isn't about antics and sight gags, it's about wit. His imagination travels through subterranean corridors of unbounded imagination and re-combines the ideas he finds there to transform them into treasures full of memorable lines.

His book Pure Drivel, a collection of essays that mostly appeared in the New Yorker, is a hilarious diversion. But he's written more serious prose, including his own very revealing life story Born Standing Up.

I don't always connect with his every bit, but most of his salvos hit home with me. And for this reason I'm looking forward to the Rubber Chicken Theater's performance of Picasso at the Lapin Agile. Greg Anderson approached Brian Matuszak a couple years ago wanting to direct it for Rubber Chicken and it's finally come to pass. The cast is Quentin Roth, Nick Elias, Amanda Sjodahl, Jonathan Manchester, Laura Grieme, Tony Barrett, Pat Carroll, Stephen Bock, and Aaron Jordan-Peterson and the venue is the intimate Play Ground Theater in the Tech Village, downtown Duluth with shows at 7:30 p.m. Thursday thru Saturday both this week and next.

Nearly all stories by Steve Martin have a set-up that offers a range of possibilities and opportunity for thought-provoking insanity. Examine if you will Roxanne (Cyrano de Bergerac as a 20th century fire chief) or L.A. Story (a traffic sign in Los Angeles plays matchmaker.) And so it is that we meet Picasso at the Lapin Agile, a bar in Paris circa 1904 where a young Albert Einstein makes an appearance. It's the kind of situation where you can't help but say, "I'd like to be a fly on the wall of that meeting of the minds." And that's what Martin offers us.

According to a Vincent Canby New York Times theater review in 1995, "The situation is this: on a night in 1904, Albert Einstein, 25 years old, wanders into the Lapin Agile, a small, rather dingy Paris bar hospitable to painters, writers and other eccentrics who are giving direction to the new century's avant-garde. Einstein is waiting for a woman friend, but in the course of the evening he also meets the future in the person of Pablo Picasso, 23.

"Having already perceived the future in himself, Einstein is far more fascinated by the arrogant young Picasso than the painter is by him. At least at first. Einstein, after all, is a drone in a patent office by day; he's still a year away from the publication of his seminal work, 'The Special Theory of Relativity.' He's a nobody. And as a physicist, he's of a different species."

You get the picture. As soon as I saw that Rubber Chicken was bringing it to town I made a mental note to find a way to see it. My only hope is that you won't take my seat.

For the record, this week is another great one for the Twin Ports arts scene. There will be a Duluth Art Institute/Twin Ports Gallery Group sponsored night of gallery openings and parties Thursday evening involving something on the order of 16 or 18 art galleries. You can begin at The Depot (5:00 p.m. Thursday) and then march off in any direction you want. Be sure to stop in at Goin' Postal in Superior to see some of my new and old work. Yes, I found a few lost pieces from my college days which I recently framed to accompany this special event including my mixed media piece titled, "Do Something with 14 Slides That Would Be More Interesting Than Throwing Them Away."

Saturday the 21st will be an all day gallery hop celebrating Earth Day and the arts. If you really aren't going to be doing the art gallery thing, then fill up the Play Ground Thursday because that's one evening I will be busy....

Have a great week. The best is always yet to come.

Top right: Picasso and Einstein

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