Cast Lives Up to Witty 'Picasso'

Article excerpt

Byline: William J. Burghardt Daily Herald Correspondent

Displaying tremendous atmosphere and crisp portrayals, the Buffalo Theatre Ensemble's staging of Steve Martin's witty "Picasso at the Lapin Agile," is colorfully alive, a clever piece penned by the comedian who brought us "wild and crazy guys" and "Excuuuuuuuse-me!"

Martin is widely known for his imaginative Saturday Night Live skits, but also has a rather cerebral side, evidenced by his screenplays - he remade "Cyrano de Bergerac" and turned it into "Roxanne," and also adapted "Silas Marner." The comedian also is known to be a serious art collector and a deep thinker.

Originally staged by the Steppenwolf Theatre Company in Chicago in 1993, the very unique "Lapin Agile" is set in a Parisian pub in 1904, just a year before Albert Einstein publishes the theory of relativity and two years before Pablo Picasso unveils the cubist style that will revolutionize the art world. The play revolves around these two movements that sent the century on entirely new courses that reverberate to this day. It is a historical fact that both men were in Paris at the time.

The two protagonists - Einstein is portrayed by Kurt Naebig and Picasso by Bryan Burke - arrive at the "Lapin Agile" (it means, roughly, "the quick rabbit" and actually exists), a couple of supremely cocky young men trying to sort each other out like gunslingers in a wild West saloon.

Bursting with self-assuredness and a kind of boyish impishness, these larger-than-life personalities debate and challenge each other, ultimately discovering they have much in common, yet much to parry about.

There's a priceless confrontation between the two men soon after they meet. Each is sure he holds the key to the new century's greatest idea. As they circle a table in the bar, pencils at the ready, they shout "draw!" in unison, both scribbling something on a piece of paper.

"Yours is just a formula," Picasso says dismissively when looking at what Einstein has produced.

"So's yours," Einstein answers.

Much of the shows' appeal - and this is one of the best BTE shows I have seen - comes from the rich and colorful performances from Burke and Naebig. …