The University of Alaska Anchorage’s Harper studio is not a large room — certainly not a room you would expect to be able to fit an entire 19th century bar into. Yet, that is the feeling you get when you first walk in to see Picasso at the Lapin Agile by Steve Martin. The stage is expertly crafted by UAA’s own Theatre students and teachers, the set itself is lit with a phenomenally gentle, yellow glow, and soft, yet jumpy, mandolin music is playing as people find their seats. As an added Easter Egg for all of the art fans in the audience, many of Picasso’s more famous art pieces are strewn across the bar’s walls.
This showing of Picasso is sold out and many extra seats have been added to accommodate the crowd of people anticipating a good show.
Steve Martin, who wrote Picasso at the Lapin Agile in 1993, sadly is not in attendance. However, had he been, he himself would have laughed at the expert delivery of his own jokes.
Without spoiling too much of the show, this production is a comedy and a good one at that. Of course there is always a wrong way to tell a joke, but this concept does not exist tonight. Each pun, jest, and one-liner lands upon the audience with waves of laughter. Even the smaller jokes, the ones hardly meant to be noticed, are caught just as easily as the blatant ones. Often, when people find out this show stars Einstein and Picasso having a discussion in a bar, they think the jokes will be too high-shelf for them.
This simply is not so. Of course there are some higher end art jokes for those in the audience that know Picasso quite well. Just as there are some relatively great Relativity jokes slapped in there for the Einstein fans. There’s even a great anti joke placed right in the middle of the play that opens up the dialogue for discussion of jokes themselves.
In addition to being a fun time, this show is meant to make you think. This play opens up the mind to some of the deeper meanings of Human life by use of satire and comedy. Topics ranging from sex, relationships, and the way the mind works, to space, time, and our own place in it, all the way down to what a joke even really is.
Even if you don’t want to think about the deeper meanings behind the mask of comedy, and would just like a good laugh, this show offers that as well. And the actors’ passion for theatre is seen in their characters. For a little while, when they aren’t breaking the fourth wall, you actually believe you are watching Albert Einstein and Pablo Picasso fight each other to draw up a masterpiece. When the actors are impassioned, as is the audience, and when the time comes for some quiet, sombre reflexion, you can feel the audience’s hushed wonderment.
This show, as many of the shows at UAA have been this past school year, are not to be missed. The preparation, production, and execution of Picasso was absolutely fantastic.
Should you have a chance to glance a play at UAA, you should take up that opportunity at lightspeed!