The bar of the title actually existed in Belle Époque Paris, and Picasso was there. Never mind that the patent office in which Einstein worked at the time was in Bern — it's a clever idea that allows Martin to crack wise about art, sex, and the future while considering the spontaneity of the creative process. Moreover, he contrasts his two wild and crazy geniuses, one on the verge of his Special Theory of Relativity, the other daubing toward Les demoiselles d'Avignon, with a made-up character, one Schmendiman, who, having invented "a very inflexible and brittle building material," fancies himself a genius but is more of, as Martin would put it, "an idiot savant — hold the savant."
The play's tongue forges a deep gouge in its cheek, of course, but it's glibber than I remembered. And Martin's introduction of a visitor from the future, by way of Graceland, to tie things up is a desperate measure to which Stoppard would not need to resort. Still, New Rep bats the lightweight, self-reflexive comedy around with aplomb on Cristina Todesco's very Parisian barroom set backed by an "ovine pastoral" at which most everyone gets a cheap shot. Frances Nelson McSherry's costumes hover between Belle Époque opulence and cartoon, and the visual surprises are well handled. Among the generally deft actors, Neil A. Casey makes a giddy Einstein, and Scott Sweatt, if he fails to convey the young bull in Picasso, is intense. Particularly frisky support is supplied by Paul D. Farwell as "newly old" tavern regular Gaston and Marianna Bassham as freewheeling barmaid and male-bullshit detector Germaine.
, Entertainment, Bertolt Brecht, Bertolt Brecht, More