Theater Review: A WEEKEND WITH PABLO PICASSO (Los Angeles Theater Center)

by Tony Frankel on April 23, 2011

in Theater-Los Angeles

Post image for Theater Review: A WEEKEND WITH PABLO PICASSO (Los Angeles Theater Center)

THE ACTOR AND THE ARTIST:
TWO MASTERS AT WORK AND PLAY

What a joy it is to watch the Los Angeles Theatre Center roar back to life. Once considered a dodgy neighborhood, the Historic Core has become the center of downtown’s magnificent gentrification. The area is now a haven of lofts, art galleries and restaurants; the most exciting event is the Downtown L.A. Art Walk, a monthly showcase and celebration of this thriving arts district.

Los Angeles Theater Center - LATC - Downtown L.A.Back in the 1980s, when skyscrapers were replacing low-income neighborhoods, the Community Redevelopment Agency renovated a 1917 bank building on Spring Street for $32 million, hoping that the complex would be a magnet of attention that was sorely needed to bring the blighted area back to life. Although the four theatres became a beehive of activity, the neglected neighborhood lay dormant. Financial mismanagement and (let’s face it) some truly misguided productions led to a takeover by the city’s Cultural Affairs Department in 1991. LATC languished until January 2006, when the Latino Theater Company (founded in 1985 by current Artistic Director, Jose Luis Valenzuela) was awarded a 20-year lease for LATC from the City of Los Angeles; they also received a $4 million grant from the California Cultural and Historic Endowment. In October 2007, the building was re-opened as the new Los Angeles Theatre Center.

A Weekend with Pablo Picasso - The Latino Theater Company at Los Angeles Theatre Center

Recently, I stopped by to see Herbert Siguenza’s solo show A Weekend with Pablo Picasso – and it is a tour-de-force triumph. I had no intention of reviewing it, as the proliferation of one-person showcases in Los Angeles had soured my interest in the genre; too many artists are more concerned with a narrative recounting of their lives (which often smacks of self-aggrandizement) than they are in creating a theatrical experience. Rare is the solo outing that, through a combination of playwriting and performance, transcends its medium to become an event, such as was accomplished by  James Whitmore as President Truman in Give ‘em Hell, Harry, Robert Morse as Truman Capote in Tru, and Ann Randolph in Loveland.

A Weekend with Pablo Picasso - The Latino Theater Company at Los Angeles Theatre Center

In A Weekend with Pablo Picasso, we are not voyeurs, but rather an art dealer’s stoolies, who have been sent to Picasso’s home and studio, “Le Californie,” to ensure that he finishes works which have been commissioned by a wealthy art patron. Both Picasso, whom we meet in a bathtub with his rubber ducky, and Giulio Cesare Perrone’s perfectly realized set make us feel right at home in the south of France. You can practically smell the fresh bread that is delivered to the studio by a baker who requests payment by check; it is one of the many splendid moments that humanize Picasso: he willingly accepts the free food, knowing that the uncashed check bearing his signature is worth much more than the price of the bread.

A Weekend with Pablo Picasso - The Latino Theater Company at Los Angeles Theatre CenterSiguenza not only wrote the fascinating play (based on the writings of Picasso), but paints the commissioned works before our very eyes. It is a rare opportunity indeed to witness such unmitigated and astounding writing, acting, and painting skills in one show. Not only do we receive insight to the creative process of the influential artist, but an absorbing exposition on existential philosophy, especially as it applies to the Master’s famous painting, “Guernica” (amazing projection design by Victoria Petrovich).

Director Todd Salovey never allows Siguenza to become over-the-top, even as he flits flamboyantly about the stage, spouting Picasso’s controversial opinions. The same opinions and designs that took public and art world of the twentieth century by storm will leave you excited and inspired. High-tail it to LATC and see why Siguenza’s magnum opus perfectly embodies Picasso’s quote, “Art is the lie that enables us to realize the truth.”

photos by Ed Krieger

A Weekend with Pablo Picasso
Los Angeles Theater Center, 514 S. Spring St
Thurs-Sat at 8; Sun at 2
ends on May 1, 2011
for tickets, visit LATC or call 866.811-4111

{ 1 comment }

Patricia Pena April 29, 2011 at 2:08 pm

Culture Clash’s Herbert Siguenza’s A Weekend With Pablo Picasso is hands down the best one-man show I’ve seen in a very long time. He brings to life the emotional turmoil of Picasso’s response to the bombing of Guernica, one of Picasso’s most haunting screams so painfully painted against the canvass. An artist himself, Siguenza’s every movement on stage, painting live throughout the play, proves he is a master of his craft. The monologue delivery is outstanding and the script carefully written using the Master Painter’s quotes and statements made from those close to him. Absolutely loved it! Planning to bring family and friends when he brings it to Walnut Grove, too.

3 fry breads to you, Herbert, ’cause the 4th would be a heart attack. 🙂

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