‘A Weekend With Pablo Picasso’ is as playful and probing as ever in reprise of solo play at New Village Arts
Herbert Sigüenza returns to central role of his locally developed piece about a moment late in the great artist’s life
Dropped in on Picasso the other day. Can’t really talk about it.
I mean I’d love to, but practically the last words the irascible painter utters in “A Weekend With Pablo Picasso” are these: “If you learned anything, keep it to yourself.”
Then again, Picasso — in the person of the superb actor-playwright Herbert Sigüenza — is by his own admission a huge gossip, so it probably can’t hurt to spill a little tea on Mr. P.
So: The man lets a goat roam his home. He dumps an ungodly quantity of sugar in his coffee (and yet it’s still not quite sweet enough). And, you may not be surprised to learn, he has a whole lot to say.
He says it with a mix of whimsy and blunt gravitas in “Weekend,” Sigüenza’s decade-old theatrical ode to the Spanish master, now getting its latest staging at New Village Arts in Carlsbad.
This is the first area production of the San Diego Rep-developed piece in some six years, but Sigüenza — the Rep’s playwright in residence — has since performed it around the country, and his evocation of the great painter has taken on fresh depths and textures.
It’s still a defiantly quirky piece, one that rests on the shaky conceit that we in the audience are art students who’ve mustered unannounced to watch Picasso work, like the world’s dopiest and most annoying flash mob.
The script, quilted together as it is from Picasso’s own writing and sayings, also can occasionally make “Weekend” feel like a collection of aphorisms in search of a play: “Every child is born an artist”; “I see and I ask, why not?” “Art is a lie that makes us recognize the truth.”
But there’s undeniable power in the presence of this creative genius, as embodied so convincingly by Sigüenza. And the playwright and performer, a co-founder of the pioneering Chicano troupe Culture Clash, not only bears an uncanny physical resemblance to Picasso — heightened by the signature striped shirts and peasant-on-the Mediterranean garb in Giulio Cesare Perrone’s costume design — but is a skilled and lightning-quick visual artist himself.
He showcases those talents over the course of the 80-minute piece, which is set in 1957 in the south of France, where a 76-year-old Picasso — who has long since become an international celebrity — has been commissioned to dash off six paintings and three vases over the course of a weekend.
He does so grudgingly, barking at everybody from his art dealer on the phone to the local baker at the door to, of course, us, his uninvited guests. But he slowly warms to the task, painting and philosophizing to the tune of the strange, almost atonal, jazz-inflected music in Bruno Louchouarn’s sound design, while Victoria Petrovich’s trippy projections play across Perrone’s artfully cluttered studio set.
“Guernica,” Picasso’s masterful depiction of war’s horrors, becomes a centerpiece, and as the painter confides secrets, dispenses wisdom and dishes out amusing anecdotes, Sigüenza and director Todd Salovey keep a satisfying syncopation to the play’s tone and pace.
Picasso was a master of both the playful and the poetic — sometimes inscrutably so. Speaking of both love and the artistic impulse, he pronounces at one point: “If the wings of a butterfly are to keep their sheen, you mustn’t touch them.”
Sigüenza manages to make sure this well-traveled piece has kept its own sheen. By turns funny, mysterious and uplifting, “Weekend”underlines the wit and grit that powered the painter’s matchless gift.
‘A Weekend With Pablo Picasso’
When: 7:30 p.m. Wednesdays-Thursdays; 8 p.m. Fridays; 3 and 8 p.m. Saturdays; 2 and 7 p.m. Sundays. Through Aug. 25.
Where: New Village Arts Theatre, 2787 State St., Carlsbad.
Tickets: $25-$36 (discounts available)
Phone: (760) 433-3245
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