When Pablo met Albert: WSTP presents “Picasso at the Lapin Agile”

Photo by Sue Suchyta

Photo by Sue Suchyta

Cast members include Chris Washburn (left) of Dearborn Heights as Picasso, Valerie Haas of Inkster as the barmaid Germaine, Greg Gedert of Dearborn as Einstein, Brian Townsend of Dearborn as the bartender Freddy and Margaret Winowiecki of Dearborn as the Countess.

By Sue Suchyta
The West Side Theatre Project presents comedian Steve Martin’s clever and witty comedy, “Picasso at the Lapin Agile” for one more weekend, at 8 p.m. Thursday through Saturday at Dearborn High School’s Valentine Auditorium. The adult-cast show is a fund-raiser for the Dearborn High School theater program.

The long-running off-Broadway comedy places Albert Einstein and Pablo Picasso, along with a cast of colorful characters, in a Parisian café in 1904 before either became famous.

It’s also a tongue-in-cheek, turn-of-the century Continental version of Cheers that is witty and clever. Martin’s word play and the actors’ effective timing and subtle inflections evoke much appreciative audience laughter.

Director Cynthia Frabutt assembled a remarkable cast who developed their characters fully and made the most of each remarkable role.

The show is produced by Greg Phillip Viscomi, who very effectively places both the “jumping rabbit” bar and audience right on the auditorium stage in a cozy “black box” setting.

The strong cast and the clever script make this lesser known comedy a must-see production.

Brian Townsend of Dearborn as Freddy, the owner and bartender, and Valerie Haas of Inkster as Germaine, his girlfriend and barmaid, anchor the show with the same finesse and seemingly effortless partnership with which they run the bar. They seem to monitor the pulse of the patrons, and deliver some of the funniest lines amidst much appreciative laughter.

Rich Bulleri of Dearborn is another audience favorite as Gaston, an elderly gentleman who seems as at home in the bar as the owners. His seasoned yet light-hearted observations, along with a self-deprecating sense of humor make him the patriarch of the pack.

Philip Booth of Dearborn is funny as Sagot, the cocky, self-serving art dealer who has an unerring ability to recognize budding artists and financially capitalize on their hitherto unrecognized work.

Shauna Hazime of Dearborn Heights, a recent graduate of Crestwood High School, and a musical theater major at Oakland University, shows a maturity of talent that belies her youth. She delivers a rich, multi-dimensional portrayal of Suzanne, Picasso’s latest conquest who will not let the budding artist and egotist pull the wool over her eyes.

Chris Washburn of Dearborn Heights as 23-year-old Picasso and Greg Gedert of Dearborn as 25-year-old Einstein provide the electric dynamic as two creative geniuses on the brink of breakthrough. Their interactions are suffused with energy and possibility as they represent two young men on the cutting edge of the century’s artistic and scientific possibilities while still making their characters very human and believable.

Paul Morgan of Dearborn is very funny as the obnoxiously loud and inexplicably persistent Charles Schmendiman, a self-proclaimed inventor and promoter.

Dylan Frabutt effectively balances the comic and prophetic character from the future with a light touch and symbolic blue suede shoes.

Mariam Mustafa, a senior at Dearborn High School, plays a double role, as the actual stage manager and as the Female Admirer. Her time on stage is brief but memorable.

Dearborn resident Margaret Winowiecki saved the day by stepping into the role of the Countess nine days before the show opened.

Admission is $14 for general admission, with a $2 discount for senior citizens and students. Call (313) 827-1647 for reservations. Dearborn High School is located at 19501 W. Outer Drive.

The play contains mature language and may not be appropriate for children age 12 and under.

The Hilberry, Wayne State University’s graduate repertory company, open its season with Noel Coward’s “Hay Fever.” The show, which opened Friday will run through Dec. 4 in rotating repertory.

The British farce is set in the countryside as the self-absorbed Bliss family creates self-imposed romantic chaos. When rain traps them and their guests indoors, things become even more entertaining.

The cast includes Andrew Papa as Simon Bliss, Sara Hymes as Sorel Bliss, Alan Ball as David Bliss, and Samantha L. Rosentrater as Judith Bliss.

Peter C. Prouty plays Sandy Tyrel, Lorelei Sturm portrays Myra Arundel, Christopher R Ellis plays Richard Greatham, Carollette Phillips is Jackie Coryton and Vanessa Sawson is Clara.

Tickets are available at the theater box office, 4743 Cass Ave., calling (313) 577-2972 or going to www.wsushows.com.