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adam sampieri as Pablo Picasso PhoTo CourTESy of ThE ArTSCEnTEr

Déjà vu Picasso meets Einstein again at The ArtsCenter by by r o n w o o d s

T

hroughout Picasso at the Lapin Agile’s opening night at the The ArtsCenter in Carrboro, I had the unshakable feeling that we’d seen this show before.

ArtsCenter Community Theater was shuttered in the wake of repeated professional and artistic gaffes in 2001, no resident company took its place until Hidden Voices began producing there under Lynden Harris’ artistic direction in 2005. Since then, the venue has presented a series of special projects: popular annual 10-minute play festivals and self-styled play slams; staged readings A check of the archives confirmed it: The of work by local playwrights; and children’s year was 1998; Mark Filiaci directed a brooding productions (by their own conservatory) of Geoffrey Zeger as Picasso, A Child’s Christmas in Wales, while Seth Blum played his Charlie and the Chocolate Factory P i c a s s o at th e one-night drinking buddy, and Drood (in cooperation with L aP i n ag i Le Albert Einstein, in a show also Playmakers Rep). HH featuring David Ring and Tom Against that backdrop, thenArtsCenter Stage Marriott. The venue for the artistic director Emily Ranii’s Through April 3 production? The ArtsCenter. imaginative mounting last May of www.artscenterlive.org Apparently we’ve come full Sarah Ruhl’s Eurydice—the region’s circle. Unfortunately, I’m not first sighting of that influential at all certain that’s a good thing. playwright—signaled a welcome return to fullWhile The ArtsCenter has hosted any length, fully staged and ambitious adult theater number of shows by regional and touring produced at The ArtsCenter. groups, its own stagings have proven more Another year has now passed, and a new problematic over the intervening years. After the artistic director now helms ArtsCenter Stage.

And we’re watching Steve Martin’s Picasso, again, in a production whose difficulties also echo the ArtsCenter’s past. Playwright (and comedian) Martin’s text remains something of a poor man’s take on Tom Stoppard’s Travesties: a metaphysical shaggy-dog story about a night Picasso and Einstein might have passed drinking in a Paris dive at the turn of the last century. Amid abundant-enough jokes, both men, their boozy compatriots and the audience have time to speculate—briefly (if in a somewhat self-congratulatory manner)—on the loneliness of genius. But on opening night, whatever this production ever achieved in the way of momentum was repeatedly zeroed out in its early scenes by the bizarre extended pauses of onetime ArtsCenter executive director Jon Wilner in the role of Gaston. Was this actor exploring new vistas of Shatnerian subtext—either with or without the permission of present artistic director Jeri Lynn Schulke? Or was Wilner simply going up on

nearly every line? Beyond a point, it didn’t matter: His performance crippled the first part of this production, flattening a good part of its comic timing. Did no one see this coming? While Adam Sampieri’s intensity as Picasso was appreciated, Lucius Robinson was less successful as Einstein (although Martin’s version of Einstein is rather thin). What’s worrisome is that Robinson’s remarkable gift for witty urbanity seems to have become his crutch. We’d now like to see a regional director get something completely different from him. Sarah Donnell found a constellation of interesting notes as the women who prove to be Picasso’s foils, and Jeff Aguiar gave an appropriately caustic performance as critic/ dealer Sagot. Jenny Wales’ waitress Germaine makes with the gibes before a believable second-half changeup, while Dan Oliver remains too flat throughout as Freddy. Nick Karner is presumably directed over a cliff as the manic Schmendiman, while late cast addition Jay O’Berski was already settling into the polite, soft-spoken role of a brief visitor it would be a spoiler to identify (he replaced Aaron Dunlap one day before opening). Whatever the reason, the production had difficulty gelling on opening night, in a show that asks how much more of The ArtsCenter’s past must be relived before the caliber of work we see on other regional stages is again reflected here. x

EDWARD McKAY

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Our own Kris is starting up her Krafts with Kris series again. If you’ve got kids ages 5-10, bring them over for a free storytime that also includes a chance for them to make their own take-home crafts! Here’s the upcoming schedule: MARCH 15, 10:30: Just in time for St. Patrick’s Day, it’s the Leprechaun derby hat! MARCH 29, 10:30: The story is Sally Goes To The Beach by Stephen Huneck. Kids will also be making Egg carton critters! APRIL 12, 10:30: Feeling Springlike? Feeling sneaky? Our first April program is Sneaky Sheep by Chris Monroe. Kids will be making a sneaky sheep to take home with them.

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the triangle’s weekly

doc watson live at the kirby theater this incredible icon has had a profound influence on traditional folk and bluegrass music ever since coming to national attention in the early 1960’s. his recordings and performances have inspired generations of aspiring guitarists to explore the mysteries of his phenomenal playing. don’t miss this chance to see and hear “doc and dave” live on the kirby stage.

215 N. MaiN St., RoxboRo | (336) 597-1709 | kiRbytheateR.coM www.visitroxboronc.com wednesday, March 30, 2011


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