Directors' Choice Award Winner
by Charles Bloom
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ACT 1: A stern art professor in Barcelona teaches a robotic lesson in painting. Pablo rebels and is expelled. He informs his father, over his objections, that he is changing his name and moving to Paris. There, he meets Fernande Olivier, who gives him a whirlwind tour of the city. We meet many characters who function later in our story. Pablo sketches in a park. We meet his sketches (and others) who instruct him on how they would like to be seen.
Luc Du Lac, a morally bankrupt, artistic rival, meets Pablo and offers to arrange (and secretly sabotage) an exhibition for him. Du Lac bribes some art critics and the exhibition is a failure. Then, he arranges to have Pablo evicted and deported. Max Jacob enters. He is overwhelmed by Pablo’s work and makes it the mission of his life to see it flourish.
Max meets Pablo and sings to him of his own indispensability. Pablo’s landlord, after being blackmailed by DuLac, threatens Pablo with eviction. Max creates a ruse, which sends the price of one of Pablo’s paintings to sell at a high price, enabling him to move into the Bateau Lavoir, a rooming house for impoverished artists. Fernande happens to be one of his neighbors. Pablo learns that she is unavailable, but falls in love with her, anyway. Then, courtesy of Du Lac, Pablo is arrested to await deportation. Stage-wide chaos ensues.
ACT 2: Unseen, Max facilitates Pablo’s release from jail. Pablo’s studio is an active, social hub. His friends drink heavily and sing of their own, artistic procrastinations. Du Lac witnesses the jovial proceedings with disdain and hatches a plan to control Pablo by employing him. Pablo learns that Fernande has been abused by her lover, Sebastian, and confesses his love for her. They move in together only to live in utter destitution.
Pablo goes to Du Lac’s office where he is offered a job doing cartoons. Pablo vehemently declines, storms out and his verbally assaulted by his own sketches. In anguish, he sings Heavenward about why he has been given gifts if they seem destined to never be noticed. Max goes to Pablo’s studio. He tells Fernande he feels ignored. They sing of their mutual value in Pablo’s life. Pablo arrives and receives an invitation to the home of Gertrude Stein.
Pablo, Max and Fernande enter the Stein home. Pablo is whisked away by Gertrude to meet the glamorous guests. Gertrude arranges an exhibition for Pablo at the renowned Galerie Vollard. Max pops in and out, collecting juicy gossip. Fernande attracts the attention of a handsome American. Max pops in again and reveals to Pablo the many terrible, past deeds of Du Lac. Pablo sees Fernande with the American and, fueled by rage and jealousy, creates a scene. Humiliated by Pablo’s behavior, Fernande runs out the salon.
At Max’s studio, convinced he’s lost Fernande forever, Pablo threatens to kill himself. Max lightens the moment and escorts Pablo to the Vollard exhibition, which is a huge success. All of Pablo’s paintings sell at lavish prices. His sketches, now in vogue, are all delighted to be “Picassos”. In memory, Pablo’s father returns to confront his son about the meaning and hypocrisy of “success”. Finally, Pablo says good-bye to everyone and boldly walks in the direction of the century he is destined to conquer as…the curtain falls.
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