Total Rating: 
October 7, 2017
November 11, 2017
Los Angeles
The Promenade Playhouse & Tom Waters
Theater Type: 
Promenade Playhouse
Theater Address: 
1404 Third Street
Running Time: 
90 min
Jeffrey Hatcher
Natalia Lazarus

Jeffrey Hatcher’s A Picasso has been previously performed by the Promenade Playhouse, first by an English-language theater company in Provence, then at the Playhouse in 2013. Next came a production (in 2015) in Paris, which was well received by both critics and public. Now “the show that never dies” has returned to Santa Monica in a production starring Natalia Lazarus (who also directed) and the French actor Charles Fathy. These bi-lingual actors did two performances in French, but have switched to English for the remainder of the run.

The play is set in Paris, 1941, when the city was under Nazi occupation. Picasso, an exile in France after having fled Franco’s Spain, has been summoned by a Nazi cultural officer, Mademoiselle Fischer, who needs him to authenticate three of his works which have been “confiscated” by the Germans from their Jewish owners, to be included in a “degenerate art show” curated by Joseph Goebbels.

The meeting between Picasso and Fischer is fictional, a stage device created by the playwright, Jeffrey Hatcher. However, the artistic, philosophical, and political issues raised during the course of this two-person drama (Tom Waters plays a non-speaking Nazi guard) ring true. Hatcher raises the dramatic stakes by revealing that the Nazis intend to burn Picasso’s works after the art show, thereby putting him in a quandary: should he save his paintings by declaring them fakes? What also intensifies the drama is Fischer’s hidden feelings for Picasso: she hates his arrogance, vanity and sexual swagger, yet must finally admit that she has always admired, even loved him.

The cat and mouse game between these two strong but conflicted characters is a fascinating one. I wasn’t caught up in it emotionally but was fascinated by the intellectual battle going on, the investigation of the value and importance of art in a time of war and oppression. Picasso painted “Guernica” as a protest against the bombing of a beautiful Spanish town and its inhabitants – but did it stop that civil war or WWII?

Lazarus and Fathy deliver strong, vibrant and well-nuanced performances in A Picasso, making it well worth the price of admission.

Charles Fathy, Natalia Lazarus, Tom Waters
Set: Sam Judy & Tom Waters; Production Stage Manager: James Martin; Lighting: Sam Judy; Sound: Princella Baker Jr; Costumes: Make Believe
Willard Manus
Date Reviewed: 
October 2017