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American Repertory Theater opens ‘Picasso at the Lapin Agile’

Matthew LaChiusa’s American Repertory Theater of WNY opens Thursday night an anticipated revival of what the company calls “an existential, funny-bone tickler,” Steve Martin’s two-decade-old serio-comedy “Picasso at the Lapin Agile.” LaChiusa directs this 90-minute absurdist romp, set in 1904. The play has been hailed as both “rollicking” and “invigorating for the mind.”

The story is not all laughs. Playwright Martin – the same Steve, the stand-up comic, “Saturday Night Live” regular, movie star and banjo player extraordinaire we all know – has infused the night with plenty to think about and take home, some serious topics surfacing amid the silliness. Some iconic, historical figures are seen and heard in the fabled Paris bistro, Lapin Agile (“nimble rabbit”), a 19th century version of “Cheers,” where young artists Amedeo Modigliani and Maurice Utrillo sipped absinthe with eccentrics, pimps, anarchists and others in the shadow of Montmartre’s Sacre Coeur Basilica. It was a place where everyone knew their name.

Pablo Picasso and Albert Einstein enter into the mix – later to be joined by a time-traveler with blue suede shoes – and much debate and discussion begins about art, science, genius, talent, luck and legacy all with eyes on a dawning 20th century and the future. Lively place, the Lapin Agile, which still exists.

The cast includes Sean Marciniak, Matthew Chavez, David Mitchell, Diane DiBernardo-Blenk, Keith Wharton, Stefan Brundage, Eric Mowery, Leacel Hillenbrand and Michael Leszczynski.

“Picasso at the Lapin Agile” will continue through March 28 at ART of WNY’s black-box home in the basement of the Church of the Ascension (16 Linwood Ave.). Call 634-1102 or visit artofwny.org.

– Ted Hadley

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