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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.
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on January 2, 2002
The play isn't nearly as "heady" as it sounds, however it is just as intelligent. It isn't necessary to have read Einstein's theories, nor is an appreciation of Picasso required. It certainly helps, but if you are huge fans of either men, you will probably be disappointed in that here they are representational of something else. Art and Science. The represent the 20th Century and a "visitor" from the future, which seems to be pure sight-gag absurdity, comes to remind us that sometimes art and science take a back seat to legend. As you read you discover at first that it seems Mr. Martin has diverted to some pseudo-intellectual babble with some bathroom humor thrown in. However upon reading it again, and subsequently being cast in a production, I discovered exactly the opposite. He has instead turned his "wild and crazy guy" routine into something profound. Not because it answers the questions it raises, but instead he is much smarter. He chooses not to answer them at all. Leaving the audience to ponder the nature and the purpose of art, science, destiny, love, relationships, men, women, Pop Culture, and the 20th Century. And what better way to ponder it than with some funny jokes rather than a boring lecture. The other plays in this collection are equally fascinating, and poignant. Mr. Martin knows his stuff. He tells it like it is with relationships, between men and women. Sometimes symbolically (Zig-Zag Woman) and sometimes he hits you right in the face when you aren't looking (WASP). Smart, funny, and sexy. Honest.
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on July 24, 2001
Steve Martin's ability to create memorable characters is astounding. He's done it from the start since the days of his stage act, through his appearances on Saturday Night Live, his movie career, and now on stage. Picasso at the Lapin Agile is as excellent as it is not because of the plot, the action, or the dialogue, but because of the memorable characters. This is Martin at his witty best, an enjoyable read that's surely equally enjoyable staged (I've yet to have that pleasure).
And then there's The Zig-Zag Woman, Patter for the Floating Lady, and Wasp. No, there's not a stark contrast here -- there are certainly some memorable characters in these pieces. But it's almost like we've been given a glance into early drafts, something Martin planned to make more of in the future that never quite realized their potential. They're cute little throwaway one-acts, that never would've made their way into a book on their own. Thankfully, Picasso at the Lapin Agile is worth the purchase price alone, so you can view these other pices simply as bonus material.
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on July 16, 2001
To be honest, I don't actually own this book. I have however performed the play 'Picasso at the Lapin Agile', and found it to be one of the best contemporary plays I had ever read. It is a witty, intelligent piece written by an actor perhaps best known for more woolly works, such as 'Father of the Bride'; however the play is a developed and substantial one, and I thoroughly enjoyed both reading and performing it. It is set in Paris, 1904, at the Lapin Agile, an actual pub that Pablo Picasso frequented and that exists today, and concerns a fictional meeting between Albert Einstein and Picasso. It is also coloured with many other interesting characters, who I won't reveal in case any reader of this review wishes to see the play, suffice to say that the finale of the play, with Einstein, Picasso and a certain popular musical figure from the middle of the 20th Century, who I had the great pleasure of playing, is my best memory of the stage. An excellent play, which would recieve five stars on its own - however owing to the fact that I haven't read the rest of the plays, I give it a four.
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on August 16, 2000
I admire Steve Martin's talent as a comedian and comic film actor, but I have to disagree with many of the previous reviews, especially the raves.
Referring only to Picasso at the Lapin Agile, I have to say: a clever situation does not make a play, nor does a series of gags. These are essentially what Lapin Agile relies on to occupy its 80 minutes of stage time. Having worked on a professional production of this play, I'm compelled to point out that once all the major characters have entered, the play gets lost in aimless talk, which is supported by only the thinnest thread of theatrical or conceptual logic. If Elvis didn't show up toward the end, bringing a bit of spectacle to the party, the forward momentum of the play would limp to a halt. The play ends with a kind of corny summing-up of 20th century genius. Steve Martin fans love it: The one-liners and gags keep the play afloat. Given the promising premise, however, the chance meeting of Einstein and Picasso at a Paris bar, each on the verge of his greatest accomplishments ... well, the result is humorous, but disappointing. I can't help but think that Tom Stoppard could take such an idea and make a play that would be funny and profound.
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on January 23, 2000
What a creative idea! Steve Martin has already shown himself to be a comedic genious, but with the release of "Picasso at the Lapin Agile" he proved himself to be very creative. Martin has two of the greatest thinkers, Pablo Picasso and Albert Einstein, of the 20th century meet up in a bar. An amazing concept! It is too bad that Martin does not allow this play to live up to its own, built-in potential. Sure it is visciously witty,(but so am I, and I am not a good play) but I guess I need more than sharp wit to entertain me. My main problem with this play are the inconsistancies. One moment the players recognize that they are part of the play, and then three lines later they have forgotten it. Anyway, in a play with Einstein and Picasso, has no need for such trival novelties as actors mingling with the audience. Not to mention the end. I will not give it away, but, as Nelle Carter said, "give me a break". I hope that I missed something in this play. Maybe I did because I read it quickly. So I will read it again, with the hopes that it gets better.
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on May 9, 2000
Steve Martin has always been a "serious" writer, in that he is interested in using humor to make people think and to highlight ideas in new ways. "Picasso at the LapinAgile" is a delightful piece of theatrical slight of hand wherein he creates the meeting of the century that never happened between the most influential scientest and the most influential artist and, after a wonderful setup, does a quantum leap into the absurd. It's fun to read and on stage (I saw the production at Ford's Theater in D.C.) it is fantastic.
Recently on a trip to Paris I climed Montmarte Butte to find the site of the Lapin Agile, the bistro in which Martin's play is set. It is still there and still in business, but alas, never saw nor will see a coming together of intelligence, talent and ego such as that envisioned by Steve Martin in this play.This is very smart comedy but funny enough in other ways to work for most audiences. I highly recommend it.
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on March 28, 2002
Picasso at the Lapin Agile is a wonderful play, with a great deal of tongue-in-cheek humor, dry wit, and intelligent riddles. In this play, Martin has set out a very amusing treatise on some very important aspects of the 20th century, especially regarding art and science.
There are, however, three other plays in this collection. Two of them, Zig-Zag Woman and Patter for a Floating Lady, can hardly be called plays. They're not even one-acts. They have the appearance of just being filler that Martin wrote to pass the time. Wasp, the fourth play in the collection, has many high points, including an hilarious monologue the father delivers to the son. It contains enough dark humor and sarcasm to make it a good read.
Picasso at the Lapin Agile alone is worth buying this collection, but don't expect the other plays to live up to Picasso's status. It is, though, a good collection for anyone interested in this type of humor or drama.
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on June 1, 2000
As a theatre student I had the opportunity to perform WASP during my freshman year of college. Even after a cursory, superficial first reading of the script, I was immediately struck by Martin's impeccable employment of dialogue. He's not writing plays that are meant to be just read; Martin's flawless command of speech demands to be performed. This collection of plays uses comedy to explore the inate saddness of the human condition. These characters, while indeed caricatures, are still very much real at their core. Despite their esoteric behavior and circumstances, they are struggling with extremely universal plights. Steve Martin's insights are at once achingly funny and beautifully tragic. And simply reading these plays is not enough; if the opportunity presents itself, see any or all of them. Over and over again. You'll thank me -- or rather, you'll thank Steve.
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on March 20, 2000
Picasso and Einstein meet for coffee. I saw this produced at Cambridge's American Repertory Theater and returned twice in order to get my fill. To date, this is Martin at his finest. His theme, the dependant and invisible relationship between the seemingly disparate worlds of art and mathematical science, is deftly explored with the whimsy of his previously published short stories. Please, do not be swayed by previous reviewers who are thrown by effects based on simple theatrical devices such as asides or sotto voces. These forays into the audience (to me) represented the Theory of Relativity's elastic concept of time and space as applied to the artistic presentation of story. Without having to bow to the box-office-numbers God of film, Martin is free to run with his wonderful intellect. I suggest you come along for the ride.
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