Herbert Siguenza is known in the San Diego theater community for writing and starring in original comedy-dramas. Not as many people realize, however, that he is also a talented painter. His skills as a writer, performer and artist are displayed to effect in New Village Arts Theatre’s wonderful production of his one-man show, A Weekend with Pablo Picasso..
Initially workshopped at the San Diego Repertory Theatre in 2010 and now presented as a part of NVA’s Teatro Pueblo Nuevo bilingual and bicultural initiative, the show has the audience enter the theatre as arts students who spend a weekend with the great artist (played by Siguenza) in 1957 France.
Picasso has been commissioned to create six paintings and some vases, all over the course of a weekend. He is, at first, somewhat apprehensive of the presence of the art students but he then decides to share stories about his life with them. These include tales about his childhood, accounts of several marriages and the inspiration for some of his most famous work.
Siguenza’s humorous anecdotes and witty dialogue makes the story entertaining. On the more dramatic side, we learn about how major historical events such as the Spanish Civil War and rise of Communism made such a significant impact on Picasso’s life and art.
Some overly sensitive people may find fault with some of Picasso’s comments, particularly about women, but he lived in an age where political correctness had not yet entered the lexicon. I think it’s important for Picasso and his world to be portrayed as they were, rather than have them sanitized for some of today’s audience.
Siguenza plays Picasso with so much energy that it’s impressive he wasn’t physically exhausted at the end of opening night. Whether he was painting or talking to the audience, Siguenza kept the audience engaged for every moment of the production.
While Siguenza is the focus and will be what people talk about after the show, it is director Todd Salovey who is responsible for the strong pacing of the production. He creates an atmosphere of suspense as the confident Picasso races to complete all the paintings he committed to creating over the weekend.
The late Bruno Louchouarn’s audio (his voice can be heard as Fernand, a baker Picasso talks to) and Curtis Mueller’s lighting create an intense mood while Picasso is hard at work. Their contributions are crucial to dramatizing the internal process of the artist.
Adding to the look of the story is set and costume designer Giulio Cesare Perrone. His set beautifully depicts Picasso’s luxurious French home and he features some interesting and different costumes, including a cowboy outfit and Picasso’s iconic striped shirts.
Another important crew member is Victoria Petrovich, whose projections (projections installation is credited to Omar Ramos) highlight different artworks and historical events of the twentieth century.
The inspiring script by Siguenza doesn’t ignore some of the dark and tragic moments of Picasso’s life and he depicts the artist as a man who was able to live a fascinating and very fulfilling life on his own terms, and never gave up on his passion for painting and art.
Siguenza salutes Picasso with a memorable evening in Carlsbad. It’s another unique experience from the multitalented storyteller