at the Lapin Agile
by Steve Martin
May 5 - 27, 2000
Directed by Jo Perryman
As the 20th Century rushed to a
close, marked by unbelievable achievements and unimaginable horrors,
comedian Steve Martin created a play that wraps up the century.
"Picasso at the Lapin Agile," he brings together three of the
century's most influential figures, namely Picasso, Einstein, and a
revered rock and roll superstar. If it sounds a little wild and crazy,
that's because it is, as Martin sprinkles a little philosophy between the
jokes that fly fast and furious.
carefully chosen time is 1904, his place the Paris bar Le Lapin Agile.
Translated "the nimble rabbit", it's a bar that Picasso actually
frequented and even painted in an early
The bar is a hangout for artists,
writers, and eccentrics who are giving direction to the new century's
avant-garde. A 25-year-old Albert Einstein is waiting for a woman friend,
but in the course of events, he also meets the future in the form of Pablo
Picasso at age 23.
Each is on the verge of his
break-through work. (One year later, Einstein's "The Special Theory
of Relativity" will be published, and three years later Picasso will
set the course for cubism and modern art with his painting "Les
this night however, they are bursting with youthful zeal and egotism as
they debate and challenge each other. Each is sure he holds the key to the
new century's greatest idea, but instead of highbrow lecturing, it plays
out like two gunslingers in a Wild West saloon. They circle each other,
pencils at the ready, shout "draw" and begin scribbling.
When the dust settles, Picasso
remarks dismissively to Einstein, "Yours is just a formula."
"So's yours!" the
scientist counters triumphantly.
The play combines two of Martin's
passions. He's an art collector and a science buff. When asked about his
inspiration for the play, he explained, "When I started out I hung
around a nightclub in L.A. called the Troubadour. Linda Ronstadt and the
Eagles started there. And I went to the Metropolitan and there's Picasso's
painting of the Lapin Agile. I thought of that picture's journey from that
little bar to the Met 40 million dollars later. When I started writing, I
didn't know Einstein was going to be in it. He just came. I've always been
a science fan. Also, I think the creative process in art and science is
very similar. You have to forget all the rules and start shaking things
When a visitor from the future
arrives in the form of a hip-swiveling singer from Memphis, Steve Martin
adds a third major influence of the century. But which will have the
biggest impact on humanity? Art, Science, or Pop Culture? In a moment of
celestial fantasy, Einstein and Picasso see their names spelled across the
heavens, but they don't see the visitor's.
"Oh yeah, it's there. Right
above both of yours and three times as big. Just like Vegas," the
visitor points out and then adds, "Get used to it gentlemen, 'cause
that's the way it works." It's a touch of cynical humor from a
playwright who may be a refined intellectual at heart, but is world-famous
as that "wild and crazy guy".