HUNTINGTON — So Albert Einstein and Pablo Picasso walk into a bar ... OK, not a bar but a 1904 Paris cafe before they set the world ablaze with the discoveries of their genius.
That is the absurd and fun idea that propels Steve Martin's modern comedy classic play, "Picasso at the Lapin Agile" about the two wild and crazy guys, Einstein and Picasso meeting and chatting before they transform the world.
The production takes place at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, April 5-6 as well as Friday and Saturday, April 12-13 at the The Kindred Communications Building, 555 5th Avenue Huntington. (the old WOWK building across from BP and Rally's).
Directed by Michael Murdock, the play stars Dylan M. Clark as Picasso, Len Trent as Albert Einstein, Jonathan Maynard as Freddy, Robert Huchens as Gaston, Sheila Meade as Germaine, Joanna Berner Murdock as Suzanne, Brian Cook as Sagot, Zach Adkins as Charles Dabernow Schmendiman, Heather Hughes as The Countess and A Female Admirer and Simon Woods as a Visitor.
All tickets are general admission and are $15 to see the play which is under two hours including an intermission. Get tickets in advance at https://alchemypicasso.brownpapertickets.com/
Mike Murdock, who was in the play about 15 years ago, said Alchemy already had the play on the books. This was before they found out that Steve Martin himself would be here in Huntington for the Marshall Artists Series just a few weeks before their production. Murdock, who attended the show at the Keith-Albee, said that "Picasso at the Lapin Agile," has everything we love about Martin's fresh and quirky writing.
"I think it all worked out very fortuitously with the timing," Murdock said. "I did this play about 15 years ago and I was in it and had decided to do it again. At the time, we didn't know he was coming to town. By the time picked that date, I found out he was going to be here with Martin Short. I wanted nothing more than to meet him and tell him to come see the play. I have been a huge Steve Martin fan forever and this play is just like him — very smart, but at the same time silly and funny, and has a lot of heart. It is an interesting play and I think it is fortuitously that he is in the forefront of everybody's mind right now."
Murdock said a big thankful for the show's production space inside the old WOWK studio, previously home to CrossFit Huntington in the Kindred Building. He went to building's owner Phil Nelson who found out the new theater troupe needed a space and let them use it temporarily for this show.
Alchemy Theatre was formed up after ARTS disbanded in the wake of losing their space at Huntington High Renaissance Center a couple of years ago. The troupe has been putting on shows in a variety of spaces including Barboursville Park, Make Gallery in Barboursville, the Charles Holley Gazebo on 14th Street West and the catering space at The Union for a couple cabarets.
Murdock said they transformed the open, blank gray concrete space at Kindred into a black box theater for the show wrapping the space in curtains to help the sound in that room.
"We have been living up to the name as a traveling theater troupe as we have been performing in Barboursville, and cabaret at the Union and various other places. We were looking for a place to do my first play since coming back to the area," said Murdock, who spent two years working for the state's professional theater company, Greenbrier Valley Theatre in Lewisburg. "I didn’t want to do it outdoors since it is a little too chilly. We were looking everywhere and really having a lot of trouble frankly. There are an awful lot of empty spaces, but few people are willing to negotiate or help us out.
I bent Steve Williams ear, and his wife Mary is on our board. We said we have to find a place to do this and he got us in touch with Phil Nelson who owns that building and he called us over to have a look at it. The CrossFit Huntington had just left within a month or two and the old WOWK studio space was sitting empty. They are still trying to rent it out but he said we could have the space to do the show while we need it. He really hooked us up and came through in the clutch."
Murdock said Alchemy is planning on a big year, and he, and his wife Joanna, also an actor, are stoked to jump in and help a bunch of their friends — many of whom they were in company together at ARTS.
"I could have stayed in Lewisburg, but I was a little bit homesick and there was a lot of stuff going on here I thought needed my attention and Alchemy was looking for someone to help wade through all of this stuff and it sort of worked out and Joanna and I came back and immediately fell into the show. I knew I was coming back and so we are now really trying to make Alchemy a thing. They have been doing pretty well without us selling out their cabarets and in some of the smaller spaces. They were part of the WV Shakes Fest I created in the first year, and we are doing that again on June 8 with "Twelfth Night." There will be two more shows we are doing "Dark of the Moon," an Appalachian folk tale story in October also at Barboursville Park, and then in November we will do "Art," by Yasmina Reza who wrote one of the last shows we did at ARTS, "Gods of Carnage."
Murdock said Alchemy is also on the hunt for a permanent space somewhere in Huntington. He has his eye on the old Carousel Club and is hoping that some building owner will help make a deal to help the theater troupe transform a space and with it bring new creative energy to the city.
"We lost a lot of momentum when ARTS died and we had to rebuild. Now, we are trying to get our audience back and keep them in the know with the name change," Murdock said. "There are still a handful of folks who know that there should be a good, adult-oriented theater in this town and who saw that opening that ARTS left in its wake. We needed to fill that.
I'm trying to get the city behind it. One of the biggest problems we have is money but also space. If we could find someone who knows that theater is important and would love to see something going on where there is nothing going on, that would be the best thing to happen for us right now. I would love to have the Carousel Club, which is up for sale now, and blot out the blemish that place was."
Go online at https://www.facebook.com/alchemytheatretroupe/ for more info about Alchemy