Picasso and Einstein walk into a bar ...
That's the setup for Steve Martin's play, "Picasso at the Lapin Agile," winner of the Outer Critics Circle Award for Best off-Broadway play, and the upcoming fall play at Harper College.
The Harper production opens Friday, Nov. 9 at the Performing Arts Center on the main campus, 1200 W. Algonquin Road in Palatine. Show times are 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, Nov. 9-10 and Nov. 16-17, and 2 p.m. Sundays, Nov. 11 and 18.
Tickets are $12-$15. Reserve them at (847) 925-6100 or visit www.harpercollege.edu/boxoffice.
Harper instructor and "Picasso at the Lapin Agile" director Annie Rezac talks about directing the show, its historical aspects and working with an eclectic cast of actors:
Q. What's the play about?
In a nutshell, Einstein and Picasso -- both in their mid-20s -- meet in a Paris bar, The Lapin Agile, in 1904. The cast of characters that surrounds them provides the perfect environment for Einstein and Picasso to discover their untapped potential. There is also a surprise visit from an idol of the future.
Q. Why did you choose this play?
This play focuses on the intersection of art and science and the implications of how those fields define us as humans and our progress toward the future. The way Steve Martin frames this concept is brilliant, funny and accessible.
Q. Some people might be surprised to learn the play was written by Steve Martin. What aspects of his comic personality come through in the writing?
The play is witty, like Martin, with characters that provide hilarious commentary on the world around them. Also, the play ingeniously mixes ridiculous characters and events with an authentic exploration of humanity. That's a juxtaposition for which Steve Martin is known.
Q. Did the actors playing Einstein and Picasso do a lot of research into the real historical figures they are playing?
They did! We were careful as a cast to get historical context, but also to make the characters unique to the actors playing them. In other words, this cast is not trying to "impersonate" Einstein and Picasso, but rather embody their essence.
Q. The play is basically one continuous scene, with a single intermission. Are there any challenges in doing a play that doesn't have scene changes?
I suppose there are challenges, but I love having the play flow without interruption. The pacing of this play is very important, as one idea always builds upon the next. That momentum is essential for the actors and the overall production. The main challenge is that the actors don't get any downtime and have to use a lot of energy to keep the show moving.
Q. Have you ever visited the actual Lapin Agile in Paris?
Unfortunately, no. One of our actors, Mike Maggio, did a few years ago, and he was able to provide us with a real account of the look and feel of the place. The history of the Lapin Agile is very rich and has seen many an artist over the years. Oh, to be a fly on that wall!
Q. How has it been to work with this cast?
The cast is phenomenal. It is a cast of diverse age and experience, which has led to a true sense of collaboration and ensemble. All of the actors in this production have given 110 percent and have shown real commitment to the craft of acting and building a wonderful production. I am so proud of them.