By Daniel Morgan, Advertising Manager
On Oct. 22, 2015, West Liberty University’s Hilltop Players opened their uproarious production of Steve Martin’s Picasso at the Lapin Agile at the Kelly Theatre.
The stage play takes place in a Parisian bar called the Lapin Agile and comically illustrates an evening of the potential meeting of renowned physicist Albert Einstein and famed artist Pablo Picasso. Both are at the brink of their life-changing works of genius: Einstein’s Theory of Relativity and Picasso’s dive into cubism with the painting “Les Demoiselles d’Avignon.”
As the show goes on, it becomes clear how genius can differ from one individual to another through the use of art and science as well as comedy and sex. Each character brings something out in another through various stories, arguments, and romance as the evening plays out. Theories grow and the human condition is tested with a joke at every turn. Albeit outrageously funny, there are pinnacle moments throughout that touch upon what it really means to be a genius, but also what it really means to be human.
Directed by WLU theater professor Michael Aulick, the ensemble cast really shines in this comedy, which is a genre that the Hilltop Players do not often gravitate towards. Brady Dunn pulls off an incredible performance as Einstein with his convincing German accent and ability to make you burst with laughter. You can feel the Einstein-like radiance bouncing off of the stage with his intellectual quirkiness.
Jedediah Shook captures the aura of Picasso with his smoothness and constantly artistic prowess. He is nothing if not confident of himself, and it is interesting to see how easily he can manipulate those around him. The constant exchanges between bar owners Freddy (Alex Franke) and Germaine (Meaghan Macey), who play their parts with such ease, provide a lot of laughs along with some insight into their characters’ relationship. Geena Diomedi brings some depth early on in the show with her character Suzanne as she recounts her evening with Picasso while trying to decide whether or not she should care for him.
Jeremiah Probst does justice to his part as the visitor, bringing iconic style to the stage with a funny, yet heartfelt, interpretation. The actor that steals the show is WLU adjunct theater professor John Hennen. His outrageous performance of Gaston will have you laughing from beginning to end. He never misses a beat, and once you think the joke is over, he will have you cracking up with the next one.
The entire ensemble puts on an impressive show. In order of appearance, the cast includes Alex Franke (Freddy), Adjunct Professor of Theatre John Hennen (Gaston), Meaghan Macey (Germaine), Brady Dunn (Albert Einstein), Geena Diomedi (Suzanne), Callie Carroll (Sagot), Jedediah Shook (Pablo Picasso), Zac Morris (Schmendiman), Ingrid Young (Countess), Sarah Lemley (Admirer) and Jeremiah Propst (Visitor).
Aside from the impeccable cast and their ability to be convincingly funny, one thing that sets this show apart is the fact that some of the characters break the fourth wall. For instance, Picasso tells Suzanne that he will see her “when the play is over.” It adds more to the experience in a small, comical way.
Per usual of every Hilltop Players production, the set looked terrific with great attention to detail thanks to stage manager Destiny Walsh, assistant stage managers Alex Burdick and Chris Rees, design coordinator and technical director WLU professor Meta Lasch, and shop foreman Richard Deenis. The layout of the bar flows well, and the entire set is exploding with famous artwork.
The lighting also stands out in this show, especially the special lighting techniques at the end. Kudos to the light board operator Amanda Mandirola and Aulick and Franke for rounding out the lighting team. A special shout-out goes to adjunct theater professor Maggie Balsley for helping make the actor’s accents as believable as they are.
Every aspect of the production works well to bring together yet another successful Hilltop Players production. If you want to take a break from your own life, go see this show and be transferred into a hilarious evening at the Lapin Agile. The show runs 84 minutes with no intermission, but you will wish the ending is an intermission just so you can see more.
“Picasso at the Lapin Agile” will continue its run in WLU’s Kelly Theatre in the Fine Arts Building at 7:30 p.m. on Oct. 29-31, and at 3 p.m. on Nov. 1. Tickets are available in the ticket office before the show, and discount tickets can be purchased here or by calling the WLU Ticket Office at (304) 336-8277. Do not miss out on this fun theater experience.