On Stage, a Dreamlike Montage of Gertrude Stein's Circle Play Revisits Work of Picasso, Stravinsky, and Virgil Thomson. THEATER: REVIEW

By Louise Sweeney, writer of The Christian Science Monitor | The Christian Science Monitor, July 9, 1990 | Go to article overview

On Stage, a Dreamlike Montage of Gertrude Stein's Circle Play Revisits Work of Picasso, Stravinsky, and Virgil Thomson. THEATER: REVIEW


Louise Sweeney, writer of The Christian Science Monitor, The Christian Science Monitor


PEOPLE often speak of the arts as though they are distinct fiefdoms - each with its territory and boundaries - which never unite in a whole. But I have just experienced a wonderful evening at Kennedy Center Opera House that merges painting, music, words, and dance into one creative unit.

The result is a beautiful and heady excursion into the arts, unlike any other evening of theater. At times, it reminds you of bits of other fantasies: "A Midsummer Night's Dream," the fountain ballet in "An American in Paris," or Martha Clarke's performance art.

But it's not easy theater. Or a box-office bonanza. Ticket sales were slow, and three days into its Kennedy Center run, management decided to drop the curtain early on "She Always Said, Pablo." It closed last night, two weeks ahead of schedule.

This innovative work - which includes images by Pablo Picasso, words by Gertrude Stein, and music by Virgil Thomson and Igor Stravinsky - was conceived and directed by Frank Galati, director of this production, which originated at Chicago's Goodman Theater and was a hit there. Mr. Galati won a Tony Award this year for his musical version of Steinbeck's "The Grapes of Wrath."

It is a pity that such a memorable production should close so quickly for lack of ticket sales, because this is a work that needs time to build an audience through word of mouth and reviews. At this writing, the Goodman Theater has no plans for touring the show.

Visually, "Pablo" is stunning, like a dream in TechniColor after a trip through a gallery of Picasso's best-known paintings. There is the bull-headed minotaur; the fractured Cubist faces of the desmoiselles of Avignon; the saltimbanques of the circus; refugees from the artist's blue period, rose period, and others. Picasso himself swaggers around the stage in a striped shirt.

And there are Gertrude Stein's words, which are as Cubist and surreal as any of Picasso's images.

Some of Stein's comments about Picasso, from "Three Portraits of Painters," are quoted on stage: "This one always had something being coming out of this one. This one was working. This one always had been working. This one was always having something that was coming out of this one that was a solid thing, a charming thing, a lovely thing, a perplexing thing, a disconcerting thing, a very pretty thing, a disturbing thing, a repellent thing, a very pretty thing. …

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On Stage, a Dreamlike Montage of Gertrude Stein's Circle Play Revisits Work of Picasso, Stravinsky, and Virgil Thomson. THEATER: REVIEW
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