January 13, 2011
By Martha Tanner -- Kingston This Week

In the Kingston premiere of Picasso at the Lapin Agile, presented by the King’s Town Players at the Kingston Yacht Club until January 29, a young Albert Einstein engages in a virtuoso display of verbal fencing and word play with a young Pablo Picasso. But there is a third, unseen, player who is equally a part of the hilarious cut and thrust of the conversation and that is the comedic genius, Steve Martin - actor, comedian, screenwriter, novelist and playwright, who wrote this sophisticated comedy.

"It is right out of a Steve Martin playbook in which a cast of zany characters come and go," says director David Slack. "The show was written by Steve Martin in 1993 and it reads as an offbeat comedy about a fictitious meeting between Picasso and Einstein in a small cabaret in the suburbs of Paris in 1904. It's about what might happen if two forward-thinking minds happened to meet before they became famous.

"A lot of facts are woven into the play. The Lapin Agile does exist and Picasso did visit in the early 1900s. A lot of artists and musicians hung out there and names from history are woven throughout the show."

In the intimate setting of the Kingston Yacht Club, at 1 Maitland St. off King Street East, theatre-goers will be able to insert themselves in the scene, sitting table-side with the characters in the cabaret while enjoying a glass of wine or beer.

"The seating is very close to the set," says Slack. "You'll feel like you're in the cabaret. The atmosphere is perfect and the yacht club has been very gracious in allowing us to come in."

Slack said he was thrilled when asked to direct the play for the Kings Town Players. As an actor, he was involved in a production of Picasso at the Lapin Agile in Selby and has directed several comedies, including Rumours at Domino Theatre.

"Picasso at the Lapin Agile is a favourite of people in theatre," he explained. "It is one of those special plays that people want to be involved with. It's a fun play; it's great for actors, and it doesn't get done a lot."

Although he has acted in the play, Slack did not rely on that previous experience as much as he thought he would in the director's role.

"A lot depends on the cast," he said. "We had a great turnout for auditions and we have probably one of the best comedic casts on stage all at once. The stars aligned for us, we have a great space and great actors."

Included in that group are Mike McGuire as Picasso and Robert Maizen as Einstein.

"Mike has been involved in the theatre community for years," says Slack. "He's a consummate professional and he's fun.

"Robert, who was in The Buddy Holly Story, is one of these people who comes to life on the stage, even in auditions. It's pretty exciting to watch him as Albert Einstein. Einstein was known to be a fun-loving guy with a wry sense of humour and Robert brings that to this role."

Steven Spencer plays the role of Gaston, a regular who has his own bar stool at the cabaret and who provides a running commentary on everyone who shows up at the Lapin Agile.

"He's a genius in the comedy role, as far as I'm concerned," says Slack.

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