by Lorie Lewis Ham
The New Ensemble is a newer theatre company in Fresno that prides itself on producing thoughtful, powerful works of theatre. They have accomplished that goal very well with their latest production, A Picasso, which opened last weekend.
The story of A Picasso is simple–Pablo Picasso matches wits with a Nazi cultural attaché to save his pieces from a planned “exhibition” of degenerate art– an exhibition which will burn his works. The show’s cast is merely those two characters, but those two characters really are all that is needed to tell this gripping story that delves into Picasso’s life and shows not only his wit, strength and passion for his work, but also his love for women. We also get a feel for how horrible things were for artists under Hitler’s rule—and really even get a taste for how awful it was for everyone. This show isn’t just entertainment, it makes you think and that’s my favorite kind of show.
Director of the show, Heather Parish, stated that she picked the play because it is full of ideas regarding the importance of art in our world– lots of questions from the artist’s point of view as well as the political perspectives on art. “I like a show with a lot of ideas and questions and this show can really make you think about the place of art (or theater, or music, or dance. . . ) in our lives– both individually and as a society.”
The set is simple as The Broken Leg Stage is a very small venue, yet it is sufficient, for the table and chairs and the various pieces of art lying about really are the only set needed for your focus is not on the set but on these intense, interesting characters as they spar over Picasso’s art.
“The play’s setting is in a small, makeshift ‘office’ used for interrogations and storing confiscated works of art, so the small stage is an advantage,” said Heather. “It brings to life the trapped nature of Picasso and his interrogator as they battle for what they believe in.”
Jaguar Bennett plays the role of Picasso. Having seen Jaguar in other productions I would have to say this is his best effort so far—he was wonderful. And Chelsea Bonilla as the interrogator Miss Fischer was the perfect match for Jaguar’s Picasso.
“The play isn’t just about art and ideas,” continued Heather. “It is a very entertaining cat and mouse game between two strong, interesting and at times funny characters. It is one of those small, personal theater experiences that leave you feeling stimulated and glad you came!”
I would have to agree with Heather, A Picasso is a must see show and I’m so glad I got the chance to see it. This is my first New Ensemble show and I will definitely be coming back for more in the future.
The remaining performances of A Picasso are June 16, 17, 18, 24, 25 at 8 p.m. and 18, 25 at 2 p.m. at the Broken Leg Stage, Tower District, Fresno. Tickets are $10 in advance (online through Brown Paper Tickets) $15 at the door. $5 all seats on Thursday the 16th. For more details on location and a link to purchase tickets through Brown Paper Tickets, check out New Ensemble’s listing on KRL’s local
Editors note: This show is not suitable for young children as there is some strong language.
Watch for another Local Live, here next Wednesday at 7 p.m