Picasso’s Women is one the best at the Fringe

  • 06/19/2014
  • Reporters Desk

By John Farrell

Picasso’s Women: The Darker Side of Genius is a clever and thought-provoking look at the many women in Pablo Picasso’s long, creative and troubled life.

The event in question is a gathering of the surviving women from Picasso’s life, brought together by Dora Maar with the idea of writing a book about them and how Picasso loved and used them. Set in a Paris Cafe, the meeting is at first awkward, but as the play progresses we get to see these women and how Picasso used them in his insatiable hunger for experience. Adapted by Aramazd (sic) from a play by Gwynne Edwards, the Welsh playwright who specialized in Federico Garcia Lorca’s plays, Picasso’s Women, brings together the women. They play lets them tell their experiences, while Picasso, which Russ Andrade plays as a mature man and Walter Perez plays as a young man, listens.

The play is exceptional for its sets: the Fringe Festival favors suggestion of sets rather the real thing, but Picasso’s Women used a complete set: the reproduction of a cafe in Paris is convincing, the projection screen behind the actors is effectively used and the women are dressed in proper Parisian fashion of the 1950s.

On that stage gathers Maar (Mariana Novakivich), Olga Khokhlova Picasso (Nadia Kiyatkina, who insists she is Picasso’s only wife), Francoise Gillot (Marianne Bourg) and a host of other characters, from Man Ray (Walter Perez doubling) to Suzanne the waitress(Brooke Clendenen). As each actor appears on stage they introduce themselves, so you are clear what is happening and to whom. The story is complex, from Picasso’s early blue period to his latest paintings from the 1950s.

There is much of art in this story, but just as much about how each related to Picasso, how each formed a relationship with the artist, how they were drawn into love and then left behind and how the artist’s fascination with sex was a large part of his work.

Maybe this detracts from Picasso’s accomplishments, maybe not. Certainly, he was a man of huge ideas and appetites, a monster in some respects who also was a surprisingly great painter. But, though the artist’s career is a part of this story, it is really the story of the women, who are passionate, sometimes awkward and always have something to say.

Director Aramazd uses his stage effectively. He is always capable of mixing his elements: screen, Picasso and his women, with a sure hand. You’ll get fascinating insights into Picasso’s life (and Perez as Picasso is an attractive man, who makes the women’s stories more convincing). You will probably want to know about these women and Picasso. Picasso’s Women is one of the hits of the Fringe.

Tickets are $15 to $22. Performances are June 20 at 1:30 p.m. and June 22 at 8 p.m.

Details: (323) 455-4585, www.hollywoodfringe.org
Venue:  The Complex Theaters’ Ruby Theatre
Location: 6476 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles

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