The humor in Steve Martin's 1994 comedy, unlike his early standup, is delicate and varied; but like his standup, it's free-flowing, varied, and expressive. Ryan White's production not only gives the text the nearly musical rhythm it deserves--and requires to be funny--but his cast is also in on the humor, from each individual joke and punch line to the play's overarching sensibility of the randomness of the 20th century and the excitement of being on the verge of discovery.
Co-produced with scenic and lighting designer Nathan Makaryk, White's staging is a gallery of finely etched performances. With David Chorley as Albert Einstein, we get the yin to Mararyk's yang as Pablo Picasso. Chorley's Einstein is precise, dapper, cheerful, and every ounce the space cadet. Makaryk's Picasso is intense, hot-blooded, amorous, and passionate to the core. What could these two opposites possibly have in common? You might be surprised, as Martin seems to say: Both were great and often lonely, visionary trailblazers. Both were direct, blunt, and eccentric, and the bond that grows between them here is touching but also screamingly funny.
There's not a weak link in the supporting cast. Jaycob Hunter and Leslie Rivera are tops as the often quarrelsome couple who run the Lapin Agile; Hunter's Freddy is a happy-go-lucky doofus to Rivera's more worldly, more perceptive Germaine. Hannah Butcher's Suzanne is languid, sensuous, and serene. Chris Raiskup's art dealer Sagot borders on Daffy Duck-like mania. Larry Creagan adeptly captures aging roue Gaston's interest, and expertise, in the female sex. Drew Boudreau's Schmendiman, the would-be inventor who would love to be mentioned in the same breath as Picasso and Einstein, has the physical appearance of Toulouse-Lautrec but behaves like Mel Brooks. When the heavily raked stage gives way to Caitlin McCoy's life-size rendering of Picasso's mold-breaking painting "Les Demoiselles d'Avignon," the denizens of the Lapin Agile circa 1904 are stunned with wonder, as are we.
Presented by and at the Maverick Theater, 110 E. Walnut Ave. Suite B, Fullerton. Fri. 8 p.m., Sat. 3 & 8 p.m. (Dark 3 p.m. Aug. 9.) Aug. 1-31. (714) 526-7070. www.mavericktheater.com.