Pablo Picasso and Albert Einstein walk into a bar… No, this isn’t the beginning of a bad joke. It’s the main premise of the high-school play, “Picasso at the Lapin Agile,” March 17 and 18 at 7 p.m.
The play is focused on young Picasso (junior Daniel Hernried) and Einstein (junior Austin Talamantes) meeting at the Lapin Agile in the Montmartre district of Paris in 1904 and discussing what defines intelligence and talent, along with their predictions for the 20th century.
Theater director Brian Frishman said he picked this play because it fit the size of the cast and was amusing.
“It’s silly,” Frishman said. “It’s kind of farcical, but not super-broad comedy. It’s smart in a college 101 way, so it’s not too smart.”
According to Talamantes, Einstein’s opinions in the discussions at the bar are scientifically based, contrasting greatly with the creative, free-spirit ideas of Picasso, the womanizer. However, in the end, the polar opposites discover that they have much in common.
At a recent rehearsal, actors got into character by pacing while reciting words in their characters’ native languages and relaxedly holding fake cigarettes between their fingers or teeth. The occasional shocked “Quoi?” or “Oo la la!” stood out above the noise.
Hernried and Talamantes said they prepare that way because their biggest challenges are their characters’ accents.
Hernried said that his skills from Spanish 4 don’t help very much in improving his Spanish accent.
“This is completely different,” Hernried said. “I have to go through and pronounce each word in my script until I know how to say it.”
To help, Talamantes and Hernried said that Frishman recommended that they watch some videos of their characters to get a feel for how they speak.
“(Einstein) was very quiet, but I also have to bring comedy to the role, so that’s a challenge,” Talamantes said.
Frishman also recommended that characters with French accents, like the bartender Freddy (senior Akilan Murugesan) and Gaston (freshman Luca Procida), watch the cartoon character Pepe Le Pew.
Einstein and Picasso are accompanied by nine other characters, including dim-witted goofs, philosophical masterminds and one famous mystery guest.
Junior Maryjane Garcia plays the admirer of Charles Dabernow Schmendiman, an inventor (senior Max Schmitz).
“I’m basically a star-struck brat,” Garcia said. “When I read the dialogue, I couldn’t resist (giving) her an annoying voice and a bratty tone.”
Garcia said she is dissatisfied with the female roles in the play because the women don’t engage in Picasso and Einstein’s philosophical discussion , coming across as stupid nymphomaniacs.
“I feel that there is no strength to my character,” Garcia said. “Most female leads in the plays we do make us seem shallow. I’d really enjoy being a female character who’s in control of the situation and isn’t antagonized or seen as stupid.”
Garcia said that Frishman, who said he agreed that all the female roles – except for Germaine (senior Gracie Strumpfer) and Suzanne (senior Elinor Hilton), in this play are small – wanted to add more to her character, but they haven’t discussed it yet.
Procida said that Gaston, an old Frenchman who frequents the Lapin Agile, calls himself an “observer of the feminine equation.”
“(Gaston) is a very womanizing man,” Procida said. “Although he’s of old age, he doesn’t let it get in the way of showing youth.”
Procida said Gaston opens up dialogue between the two celebrities about women and philosophy.
And he said that this play is different from any of the other productions he’s been in because it is centered around conversations about abstract ideas.
However, Procida said this is also why people should attend.
“It has a smaller cast and more interaction between them, giving room for more character work and a comedic atmosphere,” Procida said.
—By Sonja Hansen