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The comedy play by Steve Martin, "Picasso at the Lapin Agile," will open tonight at the Paul Bunyan Playhouse and run for two weeks through July 3. Two of the nine cast members, Ari Hoptman, left, as Albert Einstein, and Ryan Parker Knox as Pablo Picasso rehearse a scene from the play. Pioneer Photo/Monte Draper

Paul Bunyan Playhouse: Picasso meets Einstein in Paris cafe

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"Isn't it amazing how the play fit exactly between the time the lights went up and the lights went down?"

This astute final observation of the time-traveling "visitor" at the Lapin Agile bar represents the intelligent and, at times, just plain silly humor of comedian and playwright Steve Martin and his consistently entertaining cast of 11 characters in the second production of the Paul Bunyan Playhouse 60th celebratory season.

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Opening night for "Picasso at the Lapin Agile" is 8 p.m. today, June 23, with performances through Saturday, July 3, in the historic Chief Theatre, 312 Beltrami Avenue N.W. Evening performances start at 8 p.m., and tickets are $22. The Sunday matinee is at 2 p.m. June 27 and tickets are $11. Student tickets are $10 for anyone younger than 21 and must be purchased in person at the theater. All other tickets may be purchased through the Playhouse Box Office at 751-7270 or online at www.PaulBunyanPlayhouse.com.

"Picasso at the Lapin Agile" is rated PG13 for adult situations and some sexual innuendo.

The play features Ari Hoptman as Albert Einstein and Ryan Parker Knox as Pablo Picasso as these larger-than-life personalities may have appeared in their early years. They converge at the Lapin Agile (Nimble Rabbit) Oct. 8, 1904, and amid the nightly chatter of the bar regulars, manage to partake in exuberant discussions about life and their own burgeoning ideas, reputations and egos. Both are on the brink of individual success - in 1905 Einstein publishes his theory of relativity and Picasso paints Les Demoiselles d'Avignon in 1907 - but without the timely and tuneful abilities of a visitor, their destinies may well have gone unfulfilled.

Joining them in their evening debates is a variety of Parisian inhabitants, who are intent on revealing their own interpretations of the as-yet-unvarnished possibilities of the new century. The evening moves along quickly, as does the dialogue.

Local actors include Mark Fulton as bar patron and frequent restroom visitor, Gaston; Jessie Ladig as three separate characters; Matt Goinz as Sagot, Picasso's art dealer; and Katherine Tieben as a wise and worldly Germaine, the girlfriend of bartender and aspiring mathematician, Freddy, played by Randall Funk. Michael Lee as Schmendiman bursts into the bar and almost into history, alongside Picasso and Einstein, and if you have never heard of Schmendiman, thanks are largely due to the efforts of the "visitor" played by Keith Prusak.

The 60th season at the Paul Bunyan Playhouse will continue with Bram Stoker's "Dracula" July 7-17, "The Boys Next Door" July 21-31, and the musical "Gypsy" Aug. 4-14.

The Chief Theatre is also the site for the one-night performance of "86% Funny" featuring the Paul Bunyan Playhouse's own Ari Hoptman, at 8 p.m. Tuesday, June 29. The $10 tickets will be sold at the door for general seating.

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