They had been two younger males, age 19 and 20, buddies from childhood. Fellow artists, touring from Barcelona to expertise the delirious whirlwind of Paris on the flip of the twentieth century. Collectively, they lived in a Montmartre garret, ingesting copious quantities of wine and absinthe, frequenting bordellos, bars, cafes and opium dens. Overindulging in the whole lot. Hobnobbing with prostitutes, painters, collectors and artwork sellers. Excessive on life, drunk on love. These few months within the Metropolis of Gentle would alter the course of their lives.
One in all them, a genius, was destined for glory. The opposite… wasn’t.
Pablo Picasso, together with his bravado, brash confidence and ebullience, appeared irresistible to everybody. His bestie, Carles Casagemas, together with his volatility and morphine dependancy, was on an emotional rollercoaster, destined for catastrophe.
Equally, “Blue Interval,” the brand new play by New York-born San Diegan Charles Borkhuis, having its world premiere at OnStage Playhouse (after two years of workshopping), is manic within the first act and depressive within the second. The title refers back to the somber works produced by the Spanish painter in an prolonged bout of melancholy, between 1901 and 1904.
When Parisian mannequin Germaine Gargallo poses for Picasso, she joins their carousing “membership,” they usually turn out to be an inseparable triumvirate.
Casagemas falls desperately, obsessively in love along with her. However she’s already married, although she admits, considerably anachronistically, that it’s an “open marriage.”
She desires to have enjoyable; she desires to be a muse. She desires work of her to hold in properties of the wealthy, the place she would by no means truly be invited, however the place she may watch the residents age and by no means develop outdated herself. Additionally, it turns into evident, she desires Picasso (they had been companions, then lovers and, although it isn’t intimated right here, they ended up as lifelong buddies).
There’s a wild, youthful exuberance to all of it at first. Borkhuis’s rapid-fire dialogue crackles.
Picasso is on fireplace, his creativity inexhaustible. He’s taken on by famous artwork supplier Pere Manyac, who sees his brilliance however finds it underdeveloped.
Casagemas can’t compete — artistically or romantically.
As “Blue Interval” tells it, the three disparate males have one thing moreover artwork in widespread: they had been all disappointments to their fathers.
On the finish of 1900, the younger males’s journey residence to Barcelona for Christmas proves deadly to their friendship.
On his return to Paris, Picasso turns into a distinct individual and artist. Grief-stricken, he vows to go his personal manner, refusing to be “Manyac’s lapdog.” He solely paints the outcasts of society: the damaged, lonely, homeless, ravenous, in poor health and disabled.
His “Blue Interval” work had been unsellable on the time, however turned a few of his hottest works. He would, after all, go on to create prolifically, even profligately, in lots of kinds and mediums.
However in these at-first heady Paris days, it was all enjoyable and drink and clowning, although Picasso’s closest buddies and associates and fashions by no means actually felt seen by him.
“You look proper via me,” says Casagemas. “I’m beginning to disappear.” As Germaine places it, “You ignore everybody you’re not portray.”
Borhuis is attempting to cowl lots of territory, and he largely succeeds admirably, although the character of Manyac in under-drawn, maybe as a result of he’s the outsider on this quartet, not a member of the “membership.” A bewigged Herbert Sigüenza provides him gravitas, however his character isn’t written as a compassionate or compelling determine — solely a discerning one.
We don’t be taught a lot about Germaine, both, however Claire Kaplan’s efficiency is so luminous, so seductive and teasing, life-loving and fiercely impartial, that we fall for her simply as the lads do. She turns into the catalyst, the explainer, who provides perception into what appears to have been within the thoughts (and coronary heart) of Casagemas. However her infectious joie de vivre devolves, within the method of Casagemas, right into a determined, clingy obsession — with Picasso.
As is apt for this provocative story, it’s the connection of the 2 younger males that takes heart stage — and Javier Guerrero (as Picasso) and Jose Balistrieri (Casagemas) are each commanding and very good.
For Picasso, it’s all the time concerning the work. He sees everybody as a possible topic. No emotional ties bind him — till he loses his greatest buddy, and practically loses himself. However he by no means stops working. Guerrero captures his ardour, his relentless drive, his ruthless ambition.
Balistrieri, who’s about to start The Previous Globe/USD MFA program, is a marvel.
His large, black-rimmed eyes are searing, crazed; his mania is palpable. Within the early Paris days, he’s antic, humorous, in fixed movement, clearly intimidated by Picasso’s expertise, and destroyed when his buddy criticizes his personal self-conscious makes an attempt. He’s consumed by Germaine, wanting her for his personal, however agonized that he can’t carry out for or along with her. He’s a clown, a prestidigitator and a full-blown tragedy. It’s a masterful efficiency.
The three male solid members have labored collectively, expertly, earlier than — within the 2018 New Village Arts manufacturing of José Rivera’s magical “Cloud Tectonics.” Balistrieri and Guerrero performed brothers (a girl comes between them!), whereas Sigüenza made his directing debut.
Now, with dexterity and vitality, James P. Darvas directs these 4 consummate actors, maintaining the first-act tempo firecracker-fast and frenetic, slowing issues to a downbeat temper within the second act. There’s just one weak point (except for the shaky line-recall within the preview efficiency): the surprisingly poor French pronunciations all through.
The manufacturing and design work matches the performing/directing acumen.
The set (Duane McGregor) captures the bohemian muddle and raveled decadence of the flat, and the desolation of the cemetery the death-fixated Casagemas frequented. The lighting (Kevin “Blax” Burroughs) and costumes (Sandra Ruíz) contribute mightily to the texture of the place and time.
Most creative are the projections (by Estefanía Ricalde, who additionally designed the sound, with video design by Salomón Maya), displayed on a framed canvas, strikingly conveying the colourful surroundings going by as the 2 buddies head residence to Spain by practice. Then, we see a beautiful array of Picasso’s Blue Interval work, in all their brooding, abstracted realism, ending with a shifting flame (a ghostlight), that is still to the tip.
Superbly complementing these photographs is a foyer exhibition of Sigüenza’s personal Blue Interval work, together with a youthful model of Picasso’s iconic “The Previous Guitarist,” and a small, blue adaptation of the grasp’s magnum opus, “Guernica.”
This incendiary story begs to be advised and re-told. In 2013, UC San Diego premiered a play by Sharif Abu Hamdeh, whose “Casagemas” was a novel fusion of theater and opera.
Borkhuis affords an intriguing take as effectively. This excellent manufacturing shines a light-weight on unforgettable personalities, outstanding occasions and intense feelings in Belle Époque Paris.
- “Blue Interval” runs via Aug. 7 at OnStage Playhouse, 291 Third Avenue in Chula Vista
- Performances are Thursday-Saturday at 8 p.m., and Sunday at 2 p.m .
- Operating Time: 2 hrs. (together with intermission).
- Tickets ($22-$25) are at 619-422-7787 or onstageplayhouse.org
- COVID Protocol: Masks are required contained in the theater
Pat Launer, a member of the American Theatre Critics Affiliation, is a long-time San Diego arts author and an Emmy Award-winning theater critic. An archive of her previews and opinions might be discovered at patlauner.com.