Pablo Picasso and Albert Einstein walk into a bar — and no, it’s not a joke.
It’s the plot of “Picasso at the Lapin Agile,” a play written by comedian Steve Martin, now running at Valley Center Stage in North Bend.
Directed by Wynter and Brenden Elwood, the show will run until April 30. Tickets are available at valleycenterstage.org.
Set in a Paris bar on Oct. 8, 1904, the show features Einstein, Picasso and others debating the value of art, intellect and talent. The night of drinking comes as both title characters are on the verge of major career achievements.
The bar the Lapin Agile (French for Nimble Rabbit) “was a place for artists and musicians to go,” said actor Cody Yaple, who plays Freddy, the bartender.
Although he’s yet to publish anything and works a day job at the patent office, 25-year-old Einstein tries to convince the other bar-goers he’s a scientist. He tells them about his book — his theory of relativity — which he’ll publish in under a year.
At Valley Center Stage, the role of Einstein is being played by Alex Demana, 26, who coincidentally shares a birthday with the Nobel Prize-winning scientist. It will be Demana’s first starring role at VCS.
“It’s been an absolute fun pleasure to step into a legendary historical figure in his younger years, before he really became Einstein,” Demana said. “This [play] is a fun look into the lives of famous people before they became famous.”
Picasso, meanwhile, is a bit farther along on his journey to fame. He’s able to sell his paintings, but not quite at his peak celebrity. The artist is a few years away from painting Les Demoiselles d’Avignon.
Picasso is in a somber period after the death of a friend. But he and Einstein “really think alike,” which pulls him out of his funk, said Christoper Clark, who plays Picasso.
Clark said the show is very technical and cerebral with lots of subtle humor and word playing, requiring a “deft hand to put on.”
“It’s a sign of the theater’s growth that it is now at the point where it can take on material like this,” he said.
Veronica Ydalgo, a frequent VCS performer, plays the role of Picasso’s love interest, Suzanne. She said she thought the play would be horrible upon first reading, but was surprised with the result, praising the play for its immersive elements.
“Everybody should experience this play as an audience and as an actor,” she said. “I dare to say it’s the best play of the season.”