NEW REVIEW GO LEIRIS/PICASSO "We try not to have [too] many guests. It disturbs what's left of the neighbors," says Michel as he stumbles around his Paris home in the dark, falling down stairs, knocking over crudités, and scalding himself on a hot teakettle. It's all rather amusing . . . until you realize that it's 1944 and there's a Nazi patrol outside.
This [is] just the sort of dark humor that characterizes writer and director David Jette's farcical take on an actual evening at the house of Michel Leiris (Michael Bulger) when notable members of the French Resistance produced Pablo Picasso's final work: a play entitled Desire Caught by the Tail. Picasso's play itself is nonsensically awful (but oh, how the man could paint), so Jette has instead created a play about the circumstances surrounding its production, a sort of play without a play, except that we do see part of Picasso's piece during Act 2. What comes before, however, is the preparation, as Leiris, his wife Zette (Jenny Byrd), Albert Camus (Tyler Jenich), Jean-Paul Sartre (Patrick Baker), Simone de Beauvoir (Amy K. Harmon), and Picasso's mistress Dora Maar (Melissa Powell) scramble to set up while they wait for the master. Besides their own petty but hilarious squabbles, they also have to deal with a Nazi (Joseph L. Roberts) who keeps popping up, as well as the leader of the resistance, Sam Beckett (Dan Gordon); Beckett's men steal a six-foot swastika from the Louvre and bring it as a gift for Picasso. When Picasso (Fred Ochs) finally arrives, the craziness comes to a climax, and costumes are handed out in the staging of a ridiculous work that features characters such as Onion, Big Foot, Fat Angst and Thin Angst.
Jette's direction keeps all the moving parts well synchronized as the actors enter and exit Juliana de Abreu's well-designed, multi-door set, complemented by Sarah Krainin's properties and [Andrew] Thiels' set dressing. The ensemble is strong overall, though Baker's over-the-top bombastic caricature of Sartre's and Bulger's sincerity as the put-upon host stand out. And while Jette's work doesn't pretend to be historically accurate in the least, it succeeds for that very reason because, as Camus says, sometimes "happiness feels better than truth."
Bootleg Theater, 2220 Beverly Blvd., L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru July 24. (213) 290-2782. http://www.BrimmerStreet.org
Reposted from LA Weekly: http://blogs.laweekly.com/stylecouncil/stage-news/stage-raw-a-memory-of-what-mig/#more