Picasso at the Lapin Agile
written by Steve Martin
This play by Steve Martin is about a fictional meeting between Albert Einstein and Pablo Picasso in a bar, the Lapin Agile (the "Swift Rabbit") in 1904 Paris.
(Suzanne, a beautiful young heartbreaker, tells the patrons of the Lapin Agile of her encounter with Pablo Picasso.)
Gaston: So how did you meet Pablo?
Suzanne: IÖit was abut two weeks ago. I was waling down the street one afternoon and I turned up the stairs into my flat and I looked back and he was there, framed in the doorway, looking up at me. I couldn't see his face, because the light came in from behind him and he was in shadow, and he said, "I am Picasso." And I said, "Well, so what?" And then he said he wasn't sure yet, but he thinks that it means something in the future to be Picasso. He said that occasionally there is a Picasso, and he happens to be him. He said the twentieth century has to start somewhere and why not now. Then he said, "May I approach you," and I said, "Okay." He walked upstairs and picked up my wrist and turned it over and took his fingernail and scratched deeply on the back of my hand. In a second, in red, the image of a dove appeared. Then I thought, "Why is it that someone who wants me can hang around for months, and I even like him, but I'm not going to sleep with him; but someone else says the right thing and I'm on my back, not knowing what hit me?"
Germaine: Yeah, why is that?
Germaine: Never mind.
Suzanne: See, men are always talking about their things. Like it's not them.
Gaston: What things?
Suzanne: The things between their legs.
Gaston: Ah, yes. Louie.
Freddy and Einstein: Ah...
Suzanne: See! It's not them; it's someone else. And it's true; it's like some rudderless firework snaking across town. But women have things too; they just work differently. They work from up here. (she taps her head) So when the guy comes on to me through here, he's practically there already, done. So the next thing I know, he's inside the apartment and I said, "What do you want?" and he said he wanted my hair, he wanted my neck, my knees, my feet. He wanted his eyes on my eyes, his chest on my chest. He wanted the chairs in the room, the notepaper on the table; he wanted the paint from the walls. He wanted to consume me until there was nothing left. He said he wanted deliverance, and that I would be his savior. And he was speaking Spanish, which didn't hurt, I'll tell you. Well, at that point, the word no became like a Polish village: (they look at her, waiting, then) unpronounceable. (proudly) I held out for seconds! Frankly, I didn't enjoy it much 'cause it was kinda quick.
Gaston: Premature ejaculation?
Germaine: Is there any other kind?
Germaine: Never mind.
Suzanne: So then, as I was sitting there half dressed, he picked up a drinking glass, of which I have two, and looked at me through the bottom. He kept pointing it at me and turning it in his hand like a kaleidoscope. And he said, "Even though you're refracted, you're still you." I didn't ask. Then he said he had to be somewhere, and I thought, "Sure," and he left.
Germaine: You saw him again?
Suzanne: Oh yeah. That night he came back with this drawing and gave it to me, and we do it again. This time in French. I enjoyed it this time, if you're keeping score. Then he got very distracted and I said, "Whatís the matter?" and he said he sometimes starts thinking about something and can't stop. "Wait," he said, he doesn't think about it, he sees it. And I said, "What is it?" and he said, "It canít be named." That's exactly what he said: it can't be named. Well, when youíre with someone who says they're seeing things that can't be named, you either want to run like hell or go with it. Well, I'm going with it, and that's why I'm here tonight. He told me about this place, that he might see me here one day, and that was two weeks ago.
(Left alone in the bar, Picasso and Germaine discuss the love they have shared. Much to Pablo's surprise, Germaine has something besides blind praise to offer.)
Germaine: I know about men like you.
Picasso: Men like me? Where are there men like me?
Germaine: Have a drink. You don't want me to go on.
Picasso: No, tell me about men like me.
Germaine: A steady woman is important to you because then you know for sure you have someone to go home to in case you canít find someone else. You notice every woman, don't you?
Germaine: I mean, every woman. Waitresses, wives, weavers, laundresses, ushers, actresses, women in wheelchairs. You notice them, don't you?
Germaine: And when you see a woman, you think, "I wonder what she would be like." You could be bouncing your baby on your knee, and if a woman walks by, you wonder what she would be like.
Picasso: Go on.
Germaine: You have two in one night when the lies work out, and you feel itís your right. The rules donít apply to you because the rules were made up by women, and they have to be if thereís going to be any society at all. You cancel one when someone better comes along. They find you funny, bohemian, irresistible. You like them young, because you can bamboozle them, and they think youíre great. You want them when you want them, never when they want you. Afterwards, you can't wait to leave, or if you're unlucky enough to have her at your place, you can't wait for her to leave, because the truth is, we donít exist afterwards, and all conversation becomes meaningless because it's not going to get you anywhere because it's already got you there. You're unreachable. Your whole act is a camouflage. But you are lucky because you have a true talent that you are too wise to abuse. And because of that, you will always be desirable. So when you wear out one woman, there will be another who wants to taste it, who wants to be next to someone like you. So you'll never have to earn a woman, and you'll never appreciate one.
Picasso: But I appreciate women. I draw them, don't I?
Germaine: Well, that's because we're so goddamn beautiful, isn't it?
(For no apparent reason, a man called Charles Dabernow Schmendiman bursts into the room and says some weird stuff.)
Schmendiman: You are lucky tonight. You were here at the moment, and you heard it straight from the horse's mouth. I will be changing the century. The other bars know it; you may as well, too.
Einstein: And what is your name?
Schmendiman: Schmendiman. Charles Dabernow Schmendiman.
Einstein: And how will you change the century?
Schmendiman: With my invention.
Picasso: What is your invention?
Schmendiman: It's an inflexible and very brittle building material.
Einstein: Oh? What's it made from?
Schmendiman: And Iíll tell you what itís made from: equal parts of asbestos, kitten paws, and radium. The only problem is that building considerations only allow it to be used in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and the Island of Krakatoa, east of Java. But still! That's a big market! So everyone, have a drink!...
Freddy: On you?
Schmendiman: Uh...no. Just have a drink and remember my name: Schmendiman. (the others say ďSchmendiman,Ē rather lamely.) You see there's a distinction between talent and genius. And it's not just that they are spelled completely different. Talent is the ability to say things well, but genius is the ability to, well, say things! Talent sells a million in a year, but genius sells five thousand a year for two hundred years! (to Einstein) Can you compute that, or am I movin' too fast for you? You have to work to have talent. But genius comes gift wrapped in a blue box from Tiffany's!
Gaston: Picasso, Einstein, Schmendiman. Somehow it doesn't have a ring.
Schmendiman: Which one's Picasso? (Gaston points) Iíve heard of you...nice work. If you like blue. Come to think of it, it's about time for a Spaniard again...I mean, it's been a long time since "Bell-ath-kweth"ÖI'm just needlin' ye! You would be interested in my process. Creation is easy! Just follow the path of least resistance. You're supposed to paint, butcha feel like dancin'? DANCE! You're supposed to write, butcha feel like singin'? SING! That's what I did. Remember, the shortest distance between two points is a foot and a half. No pun intended.
Freddy: No pun achieved.
Schmendiman: I struggled to be a writer, but my heart told me to invent a very brittle and inflexible building material, which by the way is called Schmendimite. And I did! That's why I know my place in history is secure...I followed my heart. Next bar! (he goes toward the door, saying like a cheer) Schmenda...Schmenda...men men men! Wait! I just had another idea! A tall pointy cap for dunces! (Schmendiman snaps his fingers. He exits.)
Gaston: What the hell was that?
(Gaston, the barís resident dirty old man, asks Picasso about his process. (this speech does not appear in some versions of the published script.))
Gaston: Well, you're a painter; you're always having to come up with ideas. What's it like? I mean, the only idea I ever came up with was when I had to paint my shutters. I had to figure out a color. And I thought about it for a long time. Should they be a light color or a dark color? For a while, forest blue seemed nice; then, I realized there was no such thing as forest blue. I tried to flip a coin but lost it on the roof. I started thinking, "What are shutters anyway, and what would their natural color be?" Then I realized that shutters don't occur in nature, so they don't have a natural color. Suddenly, I knew I was just moments away from a decision, just moments, finally. Then this gorgeous thing walks by, with ruby lips and a derriere the shape of a valentine. I swiveled my head around and snapped a tendon. That put the decision off for three days. Then I thought, "Maybe just take off the shutters"; I started to think about moving to a land where there are no shutters and, frankly, suicide. But then one day, I said to myself, "Green," and that was it. (He exits to the bathroom.)
Kudos and much thanks go to Templeton Moss for these monologues, it is very much appreciated. Thanks to Tom for correcting a typo.
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