KAILUA-KONA — They say life is full of sliding doors — those seemingly innocuous opportunities or sudden moments in time where a decision is made, a path is chosen, and fates forever change.
They can be profound in real time — “ah-ha!” — or, just as likely, they can be the opposite, so inconspicuous and subtle one doesn’t even realize in real time the weight of what’s at stake.
Enter Lapin Agile, a bar in Paris, on the evening of Oct. 8, 1904.
Pablo Picasso and Albert Einstein are drinking with a colorful lot of characters. Neither figure has broken through on their life’s work. Yet.
The artist is 23 and on the verge of making his mark with his master painting, Les Demoiselles d’Avignon. The scientist is 25 and on the cusp of unleashing his Special Theory of Relativity.
They realize, through barroom banter, that their quests are similar, as the play, “Picasso at the Lapin Agile,” written by comedy legend Steve Martin, attempts to explain the need for leaps of imagination in art and science when it comes to the creative process.
“It’s a brilliant, brilliant script,” said Brett Vail, a Waikoloa Village resident with LA experience on his acting resume, who is playing Einstein in the play, a role which marks his Big Island stage debut. “Yet, it’s also fun and funny.”
The show mixes layers of intelligent discussion with witty lines delivered by assorted characters. With the help of Schmendiman, an inventor played by Justin Henshaw who believes he is a genius but really knows very little, and Freddy the bartender, Einstein and Picasso realize their internal truths as they debate talent and genius.
The discussion also focuses on the cultural shifts expected during the 20th century, some of which are spot on and some of which are way off. It’s an intriguing topic that can look and sound similar to discussions of today.
“It’s very thoughtful with good comical breakout moments,” said Henshaw, who co-produced the play with Dave Merrin. “It makes you appreciate the things we take for granted.”
Nine actors portray 11 roles for the 90-minute Waimea Community Theater production. It opens at 7 tonight at Parker School, with another 7 p.m. performance Saturday and a 2 p.m. matinee Sunday.
It travels to Honokaa People’s Theater at 7 p.m. Oct. 19 and 2 p.m. Oct. 20. It heads south to Privateer’s Cove in Kailua-Kona at 2 and 7 p.m. Oct. 26.
Lapin Agile, translated to Nimble Rabbit, is a real bar in the Montmartre section of Paris.
When the island audience enters, they’ll see Einstein, a reserved patent clerk who spends his evenings imagining what it’s like to ride a beam of light, as he waits to meet a young woman, only to first encounter the bar’s staff and regulars, and ultimately the brash and womanizing local celebrity Picasso. It’s there, along with the colorful locals, the pair of soon-to-be-giants discuss life, science, art, and their visions of the future.
The layers and subtext, combined with humor, mean there is something for everyone to take away from it.
That, Vail said, is the best part.
“It’s been fascinating,” Vail said about preparing for the role.
Tickets cost $15-$20 are available at the Waikoloa Mailbox, the Waimea General Store, Bentley’s Collection Waimea, Kona Bay Books, Privateer’s Cove and at waimeacommunitytheatre.org.