Parisian night of philosophy, painting and puns with Players in ‘Picasso’

Patrick Hobbs / Cluster Staff
Patrick Hobbs / Cluster Staff

What happens when Picasso, Einstein and Elvis walk into a bar? Comedy, wit and the truth about creativity and humanity. “Picasso at the Lapin Agile,” directed by Marian Zielinski, opened on Feb. 13 in Mercer University’s Back Door Theatre.

Set in Paris in 1904, the play was written by Steve Martin in 1993. Martin said, “the play attempts to explain, in a light-hearted way, the similarity of the creative process involved in great leaps of imagination in art and science,” according to an article in the “La Grande Observer.”

The story casually follows history in the making with a plot centered around Albert Einstein and Pablo Picasso meeting in a bar—followed by a variety of quirky characters including a time-travelling visitor (who is immediately identified by the audience as Elvis Presley). The script explores deep issues of human intelligence, philosophy and creativity while also providing comedic relief at every turn.

Zielinski said, “The larger issues of the play are intricately woven into many genres of comedy including terrible puns, satire and the absurd, making this play both challenging and delightfully amusing,” according to the play bill.

Katie Clay, a Mercer freshman, said, “I feel like all of the [cast] did their best to make it as genuine as possible. It was nice to see different parts of history come together in this really weird and misshapen world.” “Picasso at the Lapin Agile” was Clay’s first production at Mercer.

The production required extensive work and rehearsals. Zielinski, also a professor of communications and theater arts at Mercer, said, “We started on the day we got back to campus, Jan. 6. I had two days of auditions, casted, then we all had a read through and we’ve been working 6-9 every night until the opening night.”

Although there was hard work involved, it created a spirit of theater community. Clay said, “Since it was my first time, I was kind of shy and timid at first, but they were really welcoming and kind.” She continued and said, “There’s something about theater kids where you just can’t be shy around them. You have to be open. It was nice to be able to be myself after only being there for two days.”

Guest cast members and alumni featured included Evan Ayoub, Kevin Kersey and Patrick Mathis. Ayoub, who is a Mercer graduate, said in the play bill that he was “humbled to work with such an amazing cast and crew and is blown away every time they are on stage.”

Next at the Back Door Theatre will be “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead,” April 3-13. Auditions will be held  Feb. 25- 26, at 6:00 p.m. in Willingham Auditorium.