The University of Iowa
The University of Iowa News Services Home News Releases UI in the News Subscribe to UI News Contact Us


100 Old Public Library
Iowa City IA 52242
(319) 384-0073; fax (319) 384-0024

Release: Immediate

NOTE TO BROADCASTERS: Lapin Agile is pronounced (approximately) lah-PA(N) ah-ZHEEL

Steve Martin's 'Picasso at the Lapin Agile' runs three weeks at UI Theatres

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- University Theatres Mainstage will present Steve Martin's award-winning comedy "Picasso at the Lapin Agile" for a three-week run, Feb. 4-21 in Theatre B of the University of Iowa Theatre Building. Performances will be at 8 p.m. Feb. 4-6, 11-13 and 18-20, with additional 11 p.m. performances Saturday, Feb. 13 and 20, and at 3 p.m. Sundays, Feb. 14 and 21.

For post-performance refreshments, the Theatre Building lobby will be transformed into a candle-lit Parisian bistro.

Winner of the 1996 New York Outer Critics' Circle Awards for "Best Play" and "Best Playwright," Martin's "Picasso at the Lapin Agile" imagines a fiery young Einstein and a passionate young Picasso meeting in 1904, at a bohemian bistro in the Montmarte district of Paris, just before they are destined to emerge as revolutionary figures in 20th-century physics and visual art.

One year later, Einstein published the "Special Theory of Relativity" and three years later Picasso painted "Les Demoiselles D'Avignon," works that transformed the way that we look at the universe and art. But on the threshold of those triumphs, these two ambitious "wild and crazy guys" quaff drinks in the Lapin Agile while vying for the attentions of a young lady, and for each other's respect, in a fast-paced joust of ideas about art, probability, lust and the future. Assorted foils and pretenders at genius wander in, and then Elvis arrives . . .

Director Eric Forsythe, a faculty member in the UI department of theatre arts, says, "Working on this play has been an absolute delight, from start to finish. The script is a delight. The cast is a delight. The designers have been a delight. I just hope everyone enjoys it as much as I have."

Critic William Campbell wrote in The Ink Well Reviews, "Martin's splendid and hilarious homage to Albert Einstein and Pablo Picasso both exalts and humanizes these two 20th-century greats with a tongue-in-cheek glorification that brings them accessibly down to earth to dwell among us mere modern-day mortals for a couple of hours during a fast-paced and entirely delectable evening at the theater. . . . If there is a formula for 'Picasso at the Lapin Agile's' success, it is a deceptively simple one where its entertainment results from the sum of the play's material multiplied by the square of the comedy, otherwise known as E=mc2."

"Picasso at the Lapin Agile" is a landmark in Martin's self-generated, middle-age renewal. After sending the world in the convulsions of laughter with his arrows through the head, his "Saturday Night Live" sketches and a series of mostly over-the-top screen roles, Martin withdrew from performing for three years. He re-emerged not only with the "Picasso at the Lapin Agile," but also with the best-selling essay collection, "Pure Drivel."

"I lost contact with my work," Martin told the Washington Post. "'Contact with my work' -- that comes from a film on Jackson Pollock. He was talking about painting and he said, 'I lost contact with it, and I destroyed it.' The paint drips and drizzles -- that's a good metaphor for writing. I lost contact with my work. So the next day I wasn't working. I had some quiet time. I didn't go from job to job. I stopped for three years."

He calls his new writing "getting back in touch with your creative heart." Choosing the visual arts world as a source for personal metaphors, and for re-contact with his "creative heart," is a natural for Martin. He is one of America's most serious and active collectors of art.

Martin was able to stage his "L.A. Story" roller-skating sequence in the Los Angeles Museum of Modern Art only because the museum staff trusted his respect for the safety of the priceless art. And it was no surprise that Martin attended the New York opening of the Jackson Pollock retrospective exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art, which includes Pollock's "Mural" from the UI Museum of Art.

With a college degree in philosophy and a passion for visual art, Martin could create a fantasy of a meeting between Einstein and Picasso that is not a far-fetched sketch gimmick, but an extension of his own interests and concerns, and with his skills as a comic writer he could prevent the meeting from bogging down in its serious ideas.

Brad Smith wrote in the Denver Business Journal, " 'Picasso at the Lapin Agile' has Steve Martin written all over it. . . . Thankfully, the serious potential never overshadows the comedy. The audience seldom stops laughing long enough to think."

Other artistic contributors to the University Theatres Mainstage production of "Picasso at the Lapin Agile" are set designer Carolyn Barrientes, costume designer Tammy Laisnez and lighting designer David Thayer.

Tickets for "Picasso at the Lapin Agile" are $15 ($7 for UI students, senior citizens and audience members 17 and younger).

Tickets may be purchased in advance from the Hancher Auditorium box office. Any remaining tickets for each performance will be on sale one hour before curtain time at the Theatre Building box office.

Hancher box office hours are 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m. weekdays, 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturday and 1-3 p.m. Sunday. From the local calling area or outside Iowa, dial (319) 335-1160. Long distance within Iowa and western Illinois is toll-free, 1-800-HANCHER. Fax to (319) 353-2284. Orders may be charged to VISA, MasterCard or American Express. UI students may charge their purchases to their university bills, and UI faculty and staff may select the option of payroll deduction.

People with special needs for access, seating and auxiliary services should dial (319) 335-1158. The line is equipped with TDD for people with hearing impairment who use that technology.

For information on UI arts visit on the World Wide Web.