‘Picasso’ is delightful, refreshing; cast’s performance is golden

By Glenn Battishill

An excellent cast and witty script will have theatre attendees rolling with laughter during the Ashland University production of “Picasso at the Lapin Agile,” which is now playing.

The play focuses on a fictional encounter between Albert Einstein and Pablo Picasso at a bar in Paris. The play is one act and runs at approximately one hour.

Leading the cast are juniors Matthew Goldsmith as Picasso and Drew Rothhaar as Einstein. Goldsmith’s Picasso is a womanizing and somewhat arrogant jerk with a heart of gold. His performance was very entertaining, natural and overall very likable.

Rothhaar’s turn as Einstein was excellent, playing him as self-assured but also a bit awkward. The pair is hilarious and they play off each other very well. I cannot overstate how excellent and immersive these performances are.

But a majority of the witty quips belong to neither Picasso nor Einstein; instead, the supporting characters have a majority of the punch lines. Christian Neely is Freddy, the bar-owner, Austin Arnold is Gaston, a crotchety old man and Emily Jeppensen is Germaine, Freddy’s girlfriend. The trio is almost always on stage, saying one-liners and sarcastic comments.

At first, Neely’s performance may seem to be overshadowed by his sleazy black mustache, but after a few minutes, the audience really connects to him and enjoys his somewhat normal perspective on the two eccentric stars.

Austin’s Gaston is wonderful to anyone who has ever interacted with someone over the age of 70, with Gaston basically complaining over his dead sex life, loss of bladder control and overall age. Austin really uses body language and posture to enhance his character, and it really helps him turn in an excellent performance.

Jeppensen’s Germaine was one of my favorite parts of the show; her sharp wit and feminine perspective contrast very well against Freddy and Gaston. Her role also endows her with a quiet intelligence that was refreshing to watch.

The rest of the supporting cast should not be overlooked.

Freshman Rebecca Ribley plays Suzanne, a zealous fan of Picasso who learns what the famous artist is really like in person. Ribley’s performance was humble and sweet, and fit well within the show. Ribley and Goldsmith perform well together, sharing several tender-ish moments while remaining very funny.

Sophomore Jensen Glick portrays Picasso’s art dealer, Sagot, who offers his own unique perspective on art. Glick’s performance is flamboyant, loud and very entertaining.

Senior Natasha Cline plays “The Countess” and Einstein’s love interest in a very over-the-top manner. Her very brief performance was entertaining but seemingly random.

Junior Michael Cook plays “Charles Dabemow Schmendiman,” a kooky and off-the-wall person desperately trying to become famous.

Fellow Junior Tara Kodosky is a devoted fan of Cook’s character and, while her part is short, it’s very funny.

Finally, the show features a surprising and hysterical cameo from a “Visitor,” played by Aaron Arnold.

Aaron’s portrayal of this famous individual is excellent and not too cheesy (as most performances of this person tend to be).

The play was written by comic genius Steve Martin and it really shows. The jokes are fast and witty and never sacrifice story for pointless jokes.

Director Alexander Yannis Stephano never lets the action on stage become clustered and boring, allowing for his actors to move around in very natural ways.

All in all, the show is a sleek, polished example of brief but brilliant comedy. At only an hour, the play is a delightful break from the ordinary.

Any complaints lodged against the show are trivial; on occasion, the loud nature of several performances can overlap and result in lost dialogue, and I couldn’t help but feel that several of the smaller parts were unnecessary or totally random and pointless.

To order tickets, call the AU Central Box Office at 419-289-5125, Monday through Friday noon to 6 p.m.

For more information contact Tricia Applegate at 419-289-5950 or [email protected] or by visiting the theatre website at www.ashland.edu/theatre or by finding them on Facebook.