Steve Martin returns to San Diego’s Old Globe Theatre with ‘Picasso at the Lapin Agile’

Barry Edelstein directs the comedy 'Picasso at the Lapin Agile,' showing at the Old Globe Feb. 4 to March 12.
Barry Edelstein directs the comedy ‘Picasso at the Lapin Agile,’ showing at the Old Globe Feb. 4 to March 12.

The world of Paris 1904 as seen through Steve Martin’s “Picasso at the Lapin Agile” awaits The Old Globe Theatre playgoers Feb. 4 to March 12, 2017. Those who saw Martin’s previous Globe productions — the world premiere of the musical “Bright Star,” which earned five Tony Award nominations on Broadway or the world premiere of the comedy “Meteor Shower” — will not want to miss his exciting take on this classic.

Back in the day, Lapin Agile was a treasured cabaret for struggling artists, comedians, writers and intellectuals. Portraying them in this cast are Philippe Bowgen as Pablo Picasso; Donald Faison as Freddy; Kevin Hafso-Koppman as Visitor; Liza Lapira as Suzanne, Countess and Female Admirer; Hal Linden as Gaston; Ron Orbach as Sagot; Marcel Spears as Charles Dabernow Schmendiman; and Luna Vélez as Germaine.

Justin Long stars as Albert Einstein. You may remember Long as actor, producer, director and writer (“Dodgeball,” “He’s Just Not That Into You,” “New Girl,” “Ed”).

“I’m a huge fan of Steve Martin’s comedy and writing,” Long said. “I enjoyed reading this play years ago, and thought how fun it would be to do it. My friend, Justin Waldman, who is part of The Old Globe, and I did a play together a few years ago, so it was an easy choice. We want to bring some happiness to this world, and I’m fortunate I can participate in some of that.”

Einstein was one of several characters who strolled into the Lapin Agile where the regulars would gather and talk about their work.

Justin Long plays Albert Einstein.

“I liked how Hal (Linden) said it was a bit like an episode of ‘Cheers,’ and if Einstein was part of that show he would be Frasier Crane because he loved to argue,” Long said. “Some of these characters end up being very important figures of the 20th century. They debate love, life and art to a heightened reality that is so fun. No one has a better ear for comedy than Steve Martin, so it has great dialogue — rhythmic, cerebral and sometimes stupid in the best way of joy and fun. There are moments that are more profound and there’s a pee joke — it’s quintessential Steve Martin.”

Long said he did some research about the historical figures in the play. “That research made it easier for me to inhabit the parts about Einstein’s shoes and mustache, and get an overview of his theory of relativity. I have to speak in scientific terms and see scientific abstracts in a beautiful way. I remember the character Professor Ludwig Von Drake in Walt Disney’s cartoons, and comic book characters ... that was my first introduction to Einstein, but it was a little over the top with the accents and Einstein has to be clear. There are moments in the show that are kind of like Marx Brothers-esque; the lines are very rhythmic and remind me of Groucho.”

Long said he agrees that Martin’s work is forefront on the American stage, and he likes the humanity he puts forth in this script. “The way he frames ideas and stories with humor and depth creates so much meaning, and yet he keeps it funny,” Long said. “I think that’s a difficult marriage and that’s why I’ve always been a fan. Anyone with a profound fondness for art and life, and who is curious about how science figures into that, will enjoy this comedy. I find it fascinating to see these humans mix, and to imagine how they drank a beer, talked, carried themselves, sat at a bar, danced ..... or tried to hook up with the same girl.”

IF YOU GO: “Picasso at the Lapin Agile,” runs Feb. 4 through March 12 on The Old Globe Theatre’s Shiley Stage, 1363 Old Globe Way in Balboa Park, San Diego. Tickets from $29. (619) 234-5623.