I’ve been a Steve Martin fan for as long as I can remember, but have never made it a priority to see his play, Picasso at the Lapin Agile. The setup of the play is, essentially, two guys walk into a bar, except that these two guys are Albert Einstein and Pablo Picasso. Although it’s been said that my taste in art is not particularly refined (I really like the works of MC Escher), I do have a pretty deep appreciation for Einstein’s work. Like I said, seeing this play was not a priority, but definitely something I wanted to see someday.
After reading about a wonderful production of the play in New Haven, I mentioned it to my wife. Being the absolute Rock Star that she is, she scoured the web for a closer production and found it at the Genesius Theater in Reading, PA. This theater was wonderful! It was small, with seats for about 100 people. I’ve never experienced a venue this intimate, but we loved every moment and cannot wait to go back!
The play was a lot of fun. There were several running gags. Some of the humor was low hanging fruit – easy laughs for all. Other jokes would fly right over your head, but hover within reach so, if you really tried, you would grab them and thus prove your mettle, earning the intended response. And finally, there were some jokes that came out of the actor’s mouths, made a beeline for the ceiling, and then shot straight out the window.
We left the theater and didn’t know how to describe what we had just seen. I spent most of the drive back home thinking, “I didn’t get it.” And she felt much the same way. Sleep came quickly last night, but this same nagging feeling hit me square in the face this morning. Maybe I don’t know enough about art…or…Picasso.
Before writing this, I double checked the spelling over a Wikipedia and read the analysis. If accurate, we definitely “got” the play.
BUT…this play is still doing its work.
First, I wondered if the actors actually pulled it off. After all, the article about the New Haven production talked about the difficult balance of pulling off the humor in this play. Of course, I have no point of reference. The actors seemed to do a great job and the play was funny, so they get the benefit of the doubt.
Next, my own insecurity took hold as I doubted my understanding of this play. After all, I like “movies,” not “films.” Maybe this stuff is beyond me. Then again…maybe not.
I have very little doubt that there are many levels on which this play works. Mr. Martin rarely fails to entertain me on multiple levels and I am sure that there are many jokes left for me to get as life better informs my experience.
Sometimes, though, the meaning is right there. The water is exactly as deep as it appears to be. Or, at the very least, we don’t need to worry about it being any deeper…if we take that step, we won’t be in over our heads.