Yes, it's that Steve Martin -- the wacky guy from "Naked Gun." The actor comedian pens some remarkably witty and imaginative stagework in "Picasso at the Lapin Agile And Other Plays." Two of the four plays are way too brief, but the longer works sparkle with wit and weirdness.
"Picasso At The Lapin Agile" brings two geniuses to the Lapin Agile: Picasso and Einstein, both young men in 1904. A clever round of discussion starts from there, with the two great men examining science and the culture around them. There are two one-act plays; the first is "Zig-Zag Woman," which is about an emotionally desperate women whose body is in three pieces and her conversations with three men.
The second one-act is "Patter For the Floating Lady," a surreal bit about a magician levitating his former love. "WASP" is perhaps the most biting, hilarious play of this collection -- a dark satire of the white-bread middle-classes of the 1950s. Martin expertly lampoons the religious, social, and cultural conventions of the WASPs of the time, with a father who doesn't know best, a pair of troublemaking kids, and a homemaker mom who talks with the voices in her head.
Martin's plays are both cynical and silly (he identifies a luxury item as "a thing you have that annoys other people that you have it"), with plenty of humor both dark and light. The two shorter works are the weakest. While "Patter" has some sweet, sad moments, these are too brief and unformed to make as much of an impression.
But "Picasso" and "WASP" are gems. The first is philosophical pondering, lightened with plenty of humor and an Elvis cameo. The second is dark absurdist satire that is more openly goofy. Don't think that just because Martin is a comedian that these are fluff -- he develops his characters with an expert hand. Yes, even the really silly ones (like the WASP Dad).
"Picasso At The Lapin Agile And Other Plays" is a solid collection of plays, more complex and deep than they sound. Intelligent and whimsical, this is the world through Martin's twisted brain.