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‘A Picasso’ a local theatrical masterpiece

The Holocaust resulted in the appalling loss of millions of lives, but there was also a lesser-known tragedy – the destruction of art. A Picasso, a play by Jeffrey Hatcher, explores the personal side of the namesake artist’s legacy, as well as the human connection to art – and how it suffered during one of the most violent periods in history.

In the midst of World War II-stricken Paris, Pablo Picasso is arrested and brought underground to be interrogated about his art. Miss Fischer, a Nazi adjunct to the Ministry of Culture, must determine whether three paintings are authentic Picassos. The artist, however, soon grows wary of why a Nazi is interested in identifying his work.

Despite the ongoing violence around them, Miss Fischer’s forced austerity when analyzing Picasso is only to conceal her sympathy for him. As Picasso begins to sense her pathos, he dances his way around the duty she’s been assigned: find a Picasso to be displayed at a suspicious German exhibition, to which no other artists are invited. After pressing Miss Fischer further, Picasso learns the exhibition is actually a burning of degenerate art, with suggestive images from politics to pornography.

If you are not a fan of history, do not fear the plot’s somber undertones. The script is full of Picasso-isms. The artist proclaims, for example, that anyone given a painting drawn by him should “consider themselves made love to.” Even when portrayed as an arrogant, self-centered womanizer, Picasso has a charm one can’t help but admire.

Petrus Antonius and Linda Slade captivated the audience as they juggled their fiery roles in the two-person cast. In what is essentially a 90-minute dialogue with no intermission, Antonius and Slade accomplish the difficult task of transforming a simple back-and-forth script into a passionate cat-and-mouse encounter. The dynamic pair worked off one another’s acting style to deliver a vibrant performance.

“You are only as good as the actor you play opposite,” said Slade after 2 1/2 weeks of rehearsing together. She said that trying to make oneself a star in a performance where the spotlight must be shared is pointless.

A Picasso appears to have been made for the Gorilla Theatre. It looks like a warehouse from the outside and has only seven rows of seating that embrace the stage. With the play’s setting in the dark catacombs of Paris, the theater adds to the enclosed, prison-like feel of the set.

According to Slade, the greatest challenges of working in such a small space are projecting your voice to viewers across the room, stage blocking – movement on stage ­- and making sure your back never faces the audience.

With stuffed and wooden gorilla décor in the lobby, the theater is a charming venue located near Legends Field, just off of Dale Mabry Highway and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. Its name came from co-founder Aubrey Hampton who said, “Living theatre, like the gorilla, is an endangered species.”

A Picasso runs until Feb. 3, and discounts are offered to USF students. For more information about the show, prices and location, visit Gorilla Theatre’s Web site at